'Tinkertoy' facade going for scrap Shopping center losing old look, gaining new tenants

July 13, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Over the years, Timonium Crossing shopping center has been called an award-winner, a Tinkertoy building and an eyesore.

This week, the landmark at York and Timonium roads began a face-lift that eliminates the signature bright-yellow columns, vertical white tubes, crossbar balconies and bubble-like roof. Yesterday, piles of the "Tinkertoy" pieces in the parking lot appeared as if a child had left them there.

It's all part of a renovation designed to give the two-story, 58,000-square-foot center a new personality and direction with the addition of a Bibelot bookstore and Donna's restaurant.

The change also marks the end of an era when architects designed retail areas with distinctive statements, such as Towson Marketplace's slanted Best store facade, which will be dismantled this summer in a mall renovation.

"I don't feel bad. It's better than having it go into decay," said Jim Arnold, the architect for Timonium Crossing's original look.

"What concerns me is that it will be banal architecture -- another nondescript, neo-Georgian, colonial shopping center. The feeling in the suburbs is that it can't work unless it has gables."

A rendering of the new Timonium Crossing shows such architectural details, including the gables and a glass atrium. Expected to be completed by October, the renovation will highlight the center with teal, gray, sand and red hues.

Many residents and shop owners applaud the decision to alter the appearance of the center, which won an American Institute of Architects' design award in 1987.

Steve Ginsburg, owner of Waterbed Galleries, one of the center's original stores, said of the new design, "It looks quite pretty. Then we will not have what the neighbors consider an eyesore."

"If they make something presentable and appealing, it will gain the favor of the neighborhood," said Tom Kelly, a nearby resident.

Diane Kogelschatz, owner of the U.S. Martial Arts Academy, which has been at the shopping center for four years, said, "I'm looking forward to it. It was starting to age a bit."

Numerous phone calls to the property manager and owner were not returned this week.

After 10 years, crumbling outdoor stairs and empty storefronts seemed to reflect a loss of interest in the prime commercial corner near Interstate 83 and the Maryland State Fairgrounds.

Merchants say they are looking forward to a turnaround at the center when Bibelot -- one of the area's largest book-and-music stores -- and Donna's open in October. Bibelot, an independent local company, has one other store, in Pikesville.

Bibelot President Brian Weese said, "While Borders [Books and Music] has been a presence in Towson for five years, given the difficult access to downtown Towson and the center in Timonium's access to I-83 and the Beltway, there's a market to be served there."

Adding the 25,000-square-foot bookstore, which will carry 100,000 book titles and 50,000 compact disks and cassettes, and a restaurant to the center will require some movement of shops already there.

Whitestone Cleaners and the TCBY yogurt shop will move closer to the Cosmetic Center, and Boomerang Words & Gifts was asked to leave the center by the management, J.H.P. Realty.

Boomerang owner Stacey Fortson, who moved to Padonia Village in Cockeysville, said she understood why she was asked to vacate for Bibelot, but said, "It could have been handled better. But that's business. The big guys win."

Pub Date: 7/13/96

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