Owner targets Luskin's location But plans concern neighbors, geologists

December 03, 1997|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Perched on a 120-foot incline known as Luskin's hill, one of Towson's most visible commercial sites is poised for redevelopment -- triggering concern among some area residents.

For decades, the white building that housed the now-defunct Luskin's appliance store has served as a landmark for Beltway travelers. The cliff also has been a longtime setting for Fourth of July fireworks and its rocky outcropping is a well-known, 500-million-year-old destination for geologists.

Now, Columbia-based 21st Century Properties Co., which owns the 13-acre tract, wants to add a two-story, 50,000-square-foot men's clothing warehouse on the west end of the parking lot and 21,000-square-foot bank of stores along the ridge facing the Beltway.

The existing 50,000-square-foot building houses Pier 1 Imports, which is expected to relocate to one of the new stores; a Cactus Willies restaurant; and a carpet store.

It also is expected to get a face-lift with new tenants, said land-planning consultant Bill Monk, who represents the property's owner. The cost of the whole project would be "well into seven figures," he said.

Geologists and nearby residents are following the proceedings cautiously.

"There are some concerns," John Gorsuch said, listing traffic, appearance, landscaping and lighting.

But a revitalized center could be a boost to the neighborhood, he added.

"What's there now is going downhill," said Gorsuch, who lives in Cromwell Valley. "Anytime you have improvements, it's beneficial."

For years, the site has drawn geologists and mineralists who examine the quartzite ridge and collect sparkling tourmaline crystals.

"It is the best place to get a good view of the topology and layout of the Long Green Valley," said Rachel J. Burks, associate professor of geology at Towson University who often takes students to the hill. "It is a significant rock and important resource."

If the stores are built on the ledge near the Beltway, "It would be a real loss," Burks said. "It's an unusual exposure."

Wayne Skinner, who lives in Loch Raven Village, likens the area to an "island on the hill."

"Nobody's opposing what they want to do," he said. "We just want some assurances that it will look good and work well with the site."

Plans will be submitted to the county Development Review Committee on Monday to determine whether the project should go through the development process with a public input meeting.

Pub Date: 12/03/97

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