Nearly 20 years after opening, the eight-screen movie theater at Towson Commons that once seemed the center of the county seat's downtown will be closing this month.
"I think it was pretty inevitable the movie theater was going to close," said David Marks, the county councilman who represents the Towson area. Still, he said, "It's a sad ending. I remember going there in the early 1990s. It was the cornerstone of Towson."
According to an article in the Towson Times, the owner has terminated the lease with AMC, and the theater will show its last movies on Sunday, May 15. The theater has been expected to close for some time, as crowds had dwindled in recent years and other businesses left Towson Commons one by one.
For years the three-story shopping center at York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue has been vacant but for the movie theater, which has struggled since theaters with stadium seating opened at Hunt Valley and White Marsh. The center once housed a Borders Books & Music, a craft gallery and several restaurants.
Nancy Hafford, executive director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce, said she hoped the decision by the owner, a subsidiary of New York-based Capmark Finance Inc., would be good news for the future. While new restaurants and apartments have been opening all around Towson Commons, Hafford said, the large empty space has drained some of the life out of the center of town.
"Anything happening there, I'm thrilled to death," said Hafford. "If they're pushing somebody out, they must have some kind of plan."
It's not clear what the plan is. David Baird of Cushman & Wakefield, the brokerage firm representing the owner, did not return a message seeking comment. He told the Towson Times that the plan is to renovate the interior to prepare the space for new tenants, but he gave no other details.
In March, an official of Towson University said he had been in negotiations with Towson Commons' owner for more than a month to lease about a third of the retail store space for offices and classrooms for the College of Health Professions. The college's main campus lies about a half-mile south of Towson Commons.
Marks said he believed that Towson University would be moving into Towson Commons, but he did not know what other plans the owners might have for the property. He said they have been "very secretive, and not reached out to me as a county councilman."
Towson Commons, which opened in 1992, includes a 100,000-square foot shopping mall and a 10-story office building with 220,000 square feet, and an 882-space parking garage. The office has always done well, while the shopping area struggled for years.
Capmark bought the property at a bankruptcy auction last year for $28.5 million. Capmark had been the lender for the previous owner, Western Development Corp., and claimed Western defaulted on a $66 million loan.