Towson multiplex plans scrapped Developer gives up fight to build theater at Marketplace

November 28, 1995|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Towson Marketplace -- where a $20 million renovation plan sparked controversy among neighbors -- will become the area's next power strip center, with warehouse-style stores but no movie theaters, its developer said yesterday.

James A. Schlesinger of Talisman-Towson Partnership said he will not include theaters in the redevelopment of the 38-year-old mall, even though a recent Baltimore County zoning decision allows him to build six movie screens with 1,500 seats.

The Florida-based developer -- who wanted to build a 16-screen multiplex with 3,500 seats -- also said he will not appeal the zoning commissioner's ruling.

"It was a decision based on what I sensed was the mood of the community," Mr. Schlesinger said. "Baltimore County simply did not want movie theaters in this location."

His initial proposal called for restaurants, upscale shops and the movie multiplex to revive the mall at East Joppa Road near Goucher Boulevard. But that met with fierce community opposition during the summer, when a grass-roots organization, Citizens Against Marketplace Movies (C.A.M.M.), was formed. The group packed the four-day zoning hearings held last month.

Mr. Schlesinger needed a special zoning exception for the theaters and a parking variance to proceed with his proposal. Earlier this month, Deputy Zoning Commissioner Timothy M. Kotroco wrote in a 48-page ruling that the stability of the nearby communities led to his decision to limit the number of movie screens.

"I'm happy [Mr. Schlesinger's] not going to appeal," said Leon Rozankowski, a C.A.M.M. member who has lived in the area for 39 years. "What kind of stores he puts in there, we'll keep a close watch on that. If he's keeping a retail shopping center, I have no objection to that."

Now, the renovation will add several large, boxy stores to the anchors -- Montgomery Ward, Marshall's, Toys 'R' Us, Best Products and Herman's World of Sporting Goods -- already in the 43-acre shopping center.

New Jersey-based Bed, Bath & Beyond Inc. is ready to sign onto the project, Mr. Schlesinger said, and other stores will be announced next month.

"It will be a terrific shopping center," he said. "But it's going to be a different center than the way it was going to be."

He added, "It's time to heal the wounds. I lost the battle, but I'm not going to cry over spilled milk. I'm not a poor sport."

He said he expected groundbreaking for the 600,000-square-foot project to take place early next year.

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