Towson's black hole

Obsolete retail center: A once-promising development struggles and threatens Towson's vitality.

June 27, 2000

CROWDS used to mob the General Cinema theater complex at Towson Commons on Friday and Saturday nights. The lobby of the two-story, eight-screen cineplex was often so packed that it was hard to navigate the crowd. It also used to be the region's most popular teen hangout.

Not so today.

Eight years after Towson Commons cineplex opened to great fanfare, the place is a ghost town. Most movies -- including those attracting large crowds in other theaters -- play to only a couple of dozen viewers. The upstairs snack bar is closed and looks abandoned. Area teens have found other places to congregate.

The Towson Commons theaters' slow demise follows the earlier failures of the complex's food service and small retailers. Tall frames of wallboard hide the counters of food vendors.

Posters cover the windows of spaces that once contained stores selling clothes and arts and crafts.

The struggle of Towson Commons would not be of great concern -- retail establishments regularly fail -- except that it is located at the heart of the county seat. Having an empty hulk at one of the town's major intersections can be like a black hole, sucking the vitality from surrounding businesses.

The owners of Pizzeria Uno, one of the few remaining successful businesses operating in the complex, fear their fortunes are destined to decline as well. They are suing Towson Commons' owners for failing to maintain the food court.

Developing a plan to return excitement and vitality to the complex is imperative. To date, the owners' answer seems to be boarding up the growing number of empty spaces.

A more creative approach is required.

The owners may need to reconfigure the building's space and lure new high-traffic retailers and entertainment venues.

Towson Commons doesn't have to be another suburban commercial disaster.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.