Towson University to buy half-acre

Parcel at York Road and Burke Ave. to be used for sign and parking lot

January 08, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Towson University plans to spend $783,000 for a half-acre at Burke Avenue and York Road that will be used to plant a sign greeting visitors to Towson, as an entrance to the university campus and as a parking lot.

The former site of a Crown service station at the northwest corner of the intersection is slated to be purchased from the estate of Saul Goldman, a New York businessman, said Baltimore County officials.

The parcel will be owned by Towson University, but Baltimore County plans to give Towson $200,000 to help pay for it.

Crown Central Petroleum is to give the university another $153,000 to help defray the costs, county officials said.

The university, which plans to come up with the $430,000 balance, will have to secure design approvals from the county for any site improvements other than streetscaping, signs and surface-level parking, said Robert L. Hannon, executive director of the county Department of Economic Development.

Hannon said administrative officials agreed to help the university fund the purchase because the fate of such a highly visible site is a key to ensuring that Towson remains a viable business district.

"It's a gateway location to Towson," Hannon said.

Hannon said the county will retain rights to a 10-foot easement along York Road for a sign welcoming visitors to Towson and some landscaping improvements, such as trees and shrubs.

The site lies next to Berkshire Conference Center, which includes guest suites operated by the Marriott hotel chain and dormitories for graduate students.

Joseph Coale, a Crown spokesman, said Crown has been helping to find a use for the site since the station closed about three years ago. The property was cleaned up and the underground fuel tanks removed to make it more marketable, he said.

"It is a site we had a facility on, and for various reasons it was closed, and it was in our interest that a productive use be found for the site," Coale said. "That's all I can say."

University officials declined to discuss the purchase yesterday, saying the sale must be approved by state officials and by the County Council.

"The county's grant is contingent on our being able to arrange the final terms of the sale," said Susanna Craine, director of university relations. "It doesn't mean this is a done deal."

The council is to consider the plan Feb. 1.

The proposed purchase won cautious praise last night.

"It kills a lot of birds with one stone," said William Monk, president of Towson Development Corp., a nonprofit group that promotes Towson.

Monk said the parcel's future has been of concern to merchants, residents and developers since the Crown station closed.

"We can now do a landscaped entryway to Towson, and the university will have a gateway, one that will be the first thing that faculty, students and their parents see when they come up York Road to the campus," Monk said.

Monk said the limited improvements proposed for the site -- the sign, streetscaping and some street level parking -- should "be considered a Phase One" and that other improvements might eventually be proposed.

He said the parcel could one day be used as a site to expand the Berkshire.

"This could very much be viewed as a Phase One," he said.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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