University announces land-use proposal Towson plans to add streetscape, trails

May 06, 1998|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

As Towson University braces for thousands of new students over the next several years, officials are moving forward with plans to expand and spruce up the 130-year-old, rambling campus that traverses busy streets, wooded ravines and meandering streams.

The initial phase of the land-use plan, which was unveiled this week, details guidelines for creating a cohesive campus with a brick walkway, called "Education Street," for pedestrians; a town square; a York Road streetscape; hike-and-bike trails; better entrances; improved signs; and landscaped roads.

"It's a good start. It gives us a base to look at for the next 10 years and for future development," said university President Hoke L. Smith. "The question is how to maximize the building without making it feel crowded and keep a suburban feel to the campus."

Area residents, who got a look at the plan Monday night, seem relieved that immediate expansion plans are concentrated within the university's current boundaries. Yet they are wary about encroachment on the community because the university's 10-year master plan calls for the purchase of three nearby apartment complexes.

"The impact would be horrendous on the surrounding community," said longtime Rodgers Forge resident Don Gerding. think the issue is still out there to be watched carefully."

University officials insist they have no plans now to buy Lambeth House and Town and Country Versailles-North Charles apartment complexes on Towsontown Boulevard and Stevenson Lane Apartments on Osler Drive.

But Republican Del. James M. Kelly, whose district encompasses the area, wants the apartment complexes removed from the master plan.

"What I'm concerned about is if the administration changes and a new administration comes in, they are going to see that they are included," Kelly said.

By 2006, the university expects a jump in enrollment of about 55 percent -- from 14,500 students to almost 23,000 -- as the number of graduating high school seniors increases nationwide.

The land-use proposal provides a framework for the university's $290 million master plan that calls for additional academic buildings, residence halls, parking garages and athletic fields on the 320-acre campus. The 40-project wish list also includes renovations and upgrades at existing buildings and utilities.

"It's been a real hurdle to make the campus feel like one space instead of a bunch of spaces," said David W. Benn, a partner with the Cho, Wilks and Benn architecture firm that designed the land-use plan. "The campus is very fragmented. Hills, valleys, streams and roads cut through it."

Osler and Cross Campus drives are more like thruways than university roads, Benn said. The addition of median strips with landscaping would create boulevards that would slow traffic, he said.

To accommodate growth, the university has purchased an office building in the 7800 block of York Road, where Bill Bateman's restaurant is, and the former Citicorp building in the 7700 block. Once renovated, the buildings will be used for classrooms and academic and administrative offices.

Money also has been earmarked to renovate and provide an addition to the Fine Arts Center, which will be connected to the rest of the campus by a pedestrian bridge across Cross Campus Drive.

The next phase of planning includes the northwest corner of the campus closest to Charles Street, where Towson Run Apartment complex -- one of the university's 12 dormitories -- is. University officials would like to add facilities housing 1,600 beds, a dining complex and a parking structure there.

Given a dearth of state funding, the university will be seeking bids for privatized student housing -- leasing land to a developer who would build a residence hall for 400 students at Towson Run. For the past two years, student housing on campus has been at 100 percent capacity.

"We're full, so we are searching for other housing," Smith said.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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