Construction Begins on $125 Million Circle East Development in Towson

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Yesterday’s groundbreaking marked the beginning of construction of Circle East at the intersection of York Road and Joppa Road.

The intersection of York and Joppa roads has been considered the center of Towson since Ezekiel Towson opened a hotel and tavern there in the 18th century, and a group of developers wants to keep it that way.

Representatives from Retail Properties of America and AvalonBay joined elected officials on Tuesday to break ground for Circle East, a $125 million development that will bring new housing, shops and restaurants to the heart of Towson, including the former Hutzler’s department store.

When complete in two years, the project at 1 E. Joppa Road will include 371 apartments and 240,000 square feet of street-level commercial space in the former Hutzler’s building on the circle and on the north side of Joppa Road where the Trader Joe’s parking lot and Bahama Breeze restaurant once stood.

“With Circle East starting construction, downtown Towson continues its dynamic growth as a vibrant place to live, work and enjoy life,” said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in prepared remarks. “We’ve seen more than $1 billion in recent private investment in downtown Towson, adding jobs and economic vitality to the Baltimore County seat.”

Just about every speaker at the groundbreaking ceremony mentioned the memories that longtime Towson residents have of the Hutzler’s building, which opened in 1952 as the start of a wave of downtown department stores building satellite locations in the suburbs. It most recently housed a branch of Barnes & Noble, which closed to make way for construction.

A 1968 image of the site at York and Joppa Roads.

Going back to Ezekiel Towson’s tavern days, “this is really an iconic location,” Kamenetz said. “It still is the center of Towson. This project will really be a game changer.”

It’s “truly transformative for downtown Towson,” added Baltimore County Councilman David Marks, whose district includes Towson.

A rendering of the proposed project.

Retail Properties of America also owns Towson Square, which includes the Cinemark movie theater complex, Bonefish Grill and other businesses.  Plans for Circle East include streetscape improvements designed to connect the businesses and make Towson more pedestrian-friendly. KTGY and BCT are the principal designers of Circle East.

“We really think this is going to be a great place for Towson,” said Nick Over, vice president and director of development for Retail Properties of America. “There’s a real sense of pride in what we’re going to do.”

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts writes Urban Landscape on Mondays in the Baltimore Fishbowl. He is the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts

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