Towson goes uptown

October 17, 1991

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.

To consumers, Towson Town Center is a bonanza that most shoppers would be hard pressed to negotiate in a single day. To government officials it ought to represent a larger challenge: to muster the political acumen and urban planning skills that will preserve the quality of life in Towson, and for that matter, elsewhere in the county, as the megalopolis slowly spreads.

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