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Towson Times: Ceremonial Shovels Break Ground for $10.3 Million Towson Green Development

June 10, 2011

Officials tout 'green' impact – both environmental and economic

The official ground-breaking ceremony for Towson Green on June 7 moves it one step closer from "a collaborative vision," as Bozzuto Homes president Tom Baum put it, to the construction of 121 townhouses in Towson Manor Village.

The sales office for the $10.3 million housing complex is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 22 E. Susquehanna Avenue across from the Towson Library and "the model homes will be open by fall," said company vice president Clark Wagner.

The first homes are expected to be ready by early 2012.

Since January, Bozzuto Homes has been clearing the 9-acre site between Burke Avenue and Towsontown Boulevard, which eventually will be shared with Brightview, the assisted living facility that the Shelter Group plans to build off Burke.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was called out of town and was unable to attend the June 7 ceremony. But in a statement read on his behalf, he applauded the project.

"Towson Green represents an important part of the progress that is revitalizing downtown Towson," he said. "Even at a time when not many developers are moving forward with new residential projects, savvy developers like The Bozzuto Group are still eager to invest in Towson."

'Green' features

Towson Green will feature 121 homes with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, 9-foot ceilings and one- or two-car garages. Option items include a car-charging station and fourth-floor lofts with roof-top terraces. Pre-construction prices range from the mid $300,000s to the low $400,000 but are subject to change.

The development also will feature small, "pocket" parks, a tot lot, and a rain garden with walkways and benches.

The rain garden, which will treat storm water run-off and neutralizes it, is a key feature, according to Bozzuto Group president Tom Bozzuto.

His company has been working on the development with The Chesapeake Fund, a partnership that works to reduce the amount of nitrogen flowing into local streams and rivers, for more than a year to reduce its impact on the bay and local streams, he said.

Compared to the homes that once occupied the land, the Bozzuto development will produce a reduction of 60 percent less nitrogen emissions and 70 percent less phosphate emissions, according to Chesapeake Fund director Dan Nees.

"It's a common misconception that water is polluted by big industry," he said, noting it's, instead, the daily impact from the 16 to 17 million people who live in the area.

Change in scenery

Rodgers Forge resident Don Gerding, who grew up in Stoneleigh, remembers well the old houses that once occupied the land.

"It was a very vibrant, well-maintained neighborhood with big beautiful houses and family-oriented people," he said.

"We had three young children, so it was prime picking for teenage baby-sitters," he recalled. "If you couldn't get the one you had last week, she always had a sister or a cousin who was available."

But investors started buying the houses up, he said, and concentrated on making money by renting them to as many college students as they could, and the houses started to deteriorate because neither the landlords or the tenants maintained them.

"It was a shame to see how they all went to pot," he said.

Bob Ward Co., brought the 29 or so properties, and then Bozzuto purchased them from Ward.

The current plan emerged from nearly eight years of sometimes conflicting visions proffered by two developers, by two administrations of county officials and by community representatives.

The ground-breaking celebrates the future, not the past, Bozzuto said.

He cited Kamenetz, former County Executive Jim Smith, and former and current 5th District Councilmen Vince Gardina and David Marks, respectively, for helping to move the project forward — and for the revitalization tax credits that will facilitate the sale of the houses.

And like Baum, he cited the vital role that the community played, especially Towson Manor Village resident Ed Kilcullen, who as the then-president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations, boiled down and passed on community concerns.

The ceremony was exciting for Kilcullen.

"It's the beginning of a new era for one of Towson's oldest communities," he said.

And, he said, Towson Green was an excellent example of what collaboration can produce.

"We did not always agree," he said, "but in the end we came up with something we can all support."