Wednesday, June 6
Transit, Bicycles, Eastside Network Connections
The Design Team is starting to explore the extent of existing MTA routes and ways upon which they can be either expanded or modified to create a shuttle service in the core of Towson. Some gaps have been discovered in transit connections to the south of the core of Towson, improvements to these areas may include bicycle routes to existing transit stops and connections to the proposed bike routes in Baltimore City. The existing vehicular routes on the eastside of Towson are characterized by super-blocks, traffic restricting cul-de-sacs and dead-end roads in residential areas. The Design Team is exploring access to the current east-west vehicular travel routes in addition to the existing north-south routes. One solution could involve the use of Hillen Road as an additional alternative to commuters traveling through Towson. In addition, the Team feels that the section of Towsontown Boulevard, south of Joppa Road in residential area is too wide. One lane of pavement could be used for landscaping or traffic calming/enhancement, or parking.
Green Network/Open Spaces
The Design Team is studying the existing green spaces and establishing an inventory of open space within Towson. Within the 5 minute, walkable radius of the Towson traffic circle, the Prospect Hill Cemetery is the only public open green space. The next accessible (within walkable area) green space is the courthouse garden. No actual public open green space is located within the core of Towson. The team is continuing to look for opportunities for other urban open spaces within the core of Towson.
The walkability network throughout Towson is an important element in the Design Team’s study. The Team introduced the idea of “public realm” on Wednesday night, which is anything that is not private property. Streets are part of the open space network (ie. “public realm”) and should be made pleasant for walking. Some Team members met with Goucher College and reviewed the College’s plan to maintain an “idyllic” setting for the campus. The Team is currently looking for opportunities to connect the residential area behind Goucher with a path for bikes and pedestrians through Goucher College to Cancer Survivor’s Park…a formal walkway to make a better connection for them into town. They are also going to explore the College Town Shuttle network.
Land Use and Urban Design
The Design Team is also looking for opportunities to create a civic town green/public square. A proposed site, the corner of York Road and Pennsylvania Avenue (where the current Hudson Trail Outfitters is located), could involve private property and would need a public commitment and process. The site offers two options for a town green: option #1-- half of the block (where Hudson Trail Outfitters is located) could be designed as a simple open space with trees for shade and lawn in middle; option #2 would span the full length of the block (from where Hudson Trail Outfitters is located through the parking lot in the rear), east along Pennsylvania. This space larger space would have the same design—open space with trees for shade and lawn in the middle. The proposed Towson Circle III project would be directly adjacent to the proposed park area(s).
Another aspect of connectivity that the Design Team is exploring is the area of West Towson and Bosley Avenue. Re-naming Bosley Avenue to Bosley Boulevard could be the first step in taming the traffic. The intent of the proposed re-design is for Bosley Boulevard to continue to handle large volumes of traffic, but to overcome the road’s division between the core of Towson and the residential neighborhood of West Towson. Better pedestrian crossings would be integrated into the re-design, as well as using mixed use buildings along the west side of Bosley to better define the street and use complementary architecture (in keeping with the scale and style of that existing in West Towson) to knit the neighborhood back into the core.
An alternative to the traffic circle, is also being proposed. In the style of a European plaza, the traffic circle would take a new organic form—with a new fountain located in the center, the surrounding streets would be paved in cobblestones and there would be less over-regulating of the traffic patterns. Stop signs would “announce” entrances to the plaza area. Combined with the rough driving surface, traffic would be naturally calmed and allowed to meander through streets carefully. A recent example of this was built in Montgomery, Alabama.
Both transportation and land use are important in creating a place and making it walkable. In addition, infill opportunities are also very important. The Team is looking at both short term and long term possibilities for infill opportunities. The proposed Master Plan shows the ultimate build-out, from this point the Team will make additional versions of this plan to reflect short-term and intermediate options for infill. The “Canyon” (open area off Joppa Road at the roundabout) is the most important infill opportunity in the core of Towson. Stuart Sirota, Design Team Leader, feels that this site is “an open wound in the heart of Towson.” In the proposed Master Plan, the canyon would be “decked over” with the lower level businesses still existing, and the area at street level with Joppa Road could become an at-grade, buildable lot for an anchor retail building with residential or office above. This would help shape the edge of the existing traffic circle area while also creating a more seamless connection between the mall and the core of Towson. Liner buildings (retail) in front of existing parking deck along Dulaney Valley could be added by removing an existing bay of parking in the garage.
In addition, the upper floors of the old Hutzlers building, where self storage is currently located, could be converted to residential with balconies overlooking the newly pedestrian oriented area. The new (currently in construction) Fidelity bank building along with Investment building sites should introduce residential units above, providing an addition of new residents in the core who would have the best views in all of Towson (since the buildings would sited on the highest point). The Master Plan also addresses the need to fill in gaps where there are missing teeth in the current urban fabric of Towson, specifically where there are surface parking lots. There are also more infill opportunities along York Road, including a possible re-development of library building that could result in a new library facility within a mixed-use complex.
Urban Master Plan showing ultimate build-out (orange buildings are existing, dark brown are proposed)
Revised June 11, 2007