Sociologists have observed a new phenomenon. The changing nature of American society, they say, has turned malls, once simply convenient arrangements of shops, into the nation's new town squares -- places where people take their morning fast-walks, where high school choirs perform during the holidays, where teen-agers hang out and where neighbors socialize, have dinner, talk politics. Places, in short, that reflect the collective character of a community.
The opening of the new Towson Town Center this week marks, of course, an economic achievement for Baltimore County, particularly in the midst of a recession. But it is more than that.
Towson Town Center -- slick, upscale and meticulously designed -- is a far cry from the old, two-story structure whose most daring architectural feature was a fountain that sometimes worked. Like its new mall, Towson has been transformed -- from a traditional suburban enclave into a busy, diverse and somewhat urbane center. And Towson Town Center -- rising up on the horizon just north of the small, old shops on York Road -- sends a clear message that not only is the county changing fast, but so are its needs.