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A restart for once-stalled $350M Towson Row development

6-7-18 TOWSON, MD- Photo taken at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Towson Row project. Photo by Maximilian Franz

Brian Gibbons, CEO and chairman of Greenberg Gibbons, which is the owner and acting managing partner of Towson Row, shakes hands with the Tiger mascot from Towson University after the restarted project’s second groundbreaking ceremony. (Photo by Maximilian Franz)

Construction on the $350 million Towson Row mixed-use development has started, again.

Greenberg Gibbons on Thursday celebrated the start of work on the proposed 1.2 million-square-foot project that will consist of office, retail, residential, and hotel space. The ceremony comes nearly three years after Caves Valley Partners held a similar event on the five-acre site at the southwest corner of the intersection of West Susquehanna Avenue and York Road.

“I’m so happy to be here for this construction kickoff. That’s right, construction,” Brian J. Gibbons, chairman of Greenberg Gibbons, said.

During the ceremony, Gibbons announced Gilbane Development Co. will build the student housing portion of the project that will serve nearby Towson University. Shamin Hotels was also named as a partner in two planned Hilton brand hotels. Greenberg Gibbons now leads the development team in a joint venture with Caves Valley Partners.

Last spring Greenberg Gibbons took the lead on Towson Row. The firm, which specializes in retail building, said it would spearhead the retail, hotel, and residential portions of the project. It planned to bring on a third party to handle student housing, and Caves Valley Partners would handle the office portion of the project. Greenberg Gibbons, at the time, estimated its costs would be roughly $270 million.

An updated rendering of the Towson Row development now includes the Towson Armory. (Courtesy Greenberg Gibbons)

An updated rendering of the Towson Row development now includes the Maryland National Guard Armory. (Courtesy Greenberg Gibbons)

Greenberg Gibbons’ move to take over Towson Row followed work stopping on the site after the discovery of a rock surface prevented the building of an underground parking garage. Caves Valley Partners officials said they were aware there was bedrock on the site but believed when they started it could be handled with minor blasting.

Towson Row became the subject of controversy, again, when Greenberg Gibbons sought, and the county approved, roughly $40 million in financing for the project at the start of this year. The aid was criticized by opponents as a handout to developers.

Bringing new development with a more urban style to Towson was a major goal of the late Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. Kamenetz and allies on the Baltimore County Council fought to secure financing for the development that will serve as a gateway to the downtown area and a bridge to Towson University.

During the ceremony, Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler, who was appointed to fulfill Kamenetz’s term after his death in May, praised the courage of elected officials who backed the financing. The property as is, Mohler said, contributes about $145,000 annually to county tax coffers. Once Towson Row is competed it will generate $4.7 million annually.

“Even a boy from Catonsville can do that math. That is a pretty good deal,” Mohler said.

The first phase of construction consists of infrastructure work.Construction on student housing and retail is expected to begin this fall. Hotel and additional retail building is slated to begin next spring.

Towson Row is scheduled to be fully delivered in the summer or fall of 2020.

Greenberg Gibbons also plans to redevelop the historic Maryland National Guard Armory, which it acquired from Caves Valley Partners. The building borders the Towson Row site, and will be used for a mix of retail, restaurant and office space. The developer has not established a hard cost for that project, but Gibbons said it is expected to be between $5 million and $7 million.

It’s unknown if grocer Whole Foods will be a tenant at Towson Row. It was previously announced that Whole Foods would open its first store in Baltimore County at Towson Row, leasing 45,000 square feet of space. But nixing the planned underground garage on the site put the planned store’s future in doubt.

Greenberg Gibbons plans to buy the Washington Avenue Parking garage, and there will be about 1,450 parking spots serving Towson Row.

Negotiations between the developer and Whole Foods continue, Gibbons said. Even if Whole Foods decides not to open a store at the project, Gibbons said, he is confident his company, which brought Maryland’s first Wegman’s supermarket to its Hunt Valley Towne Center complex, could bring a grocery store to the site. There have been conversations, Gibbons said, with several grocery store brands about the possibility of opening a store at Towson Row.

“We’re making good progress,” Gibbons said about negotiations with Whole Foods.

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