Baltimore's suburban downtowns emerge as more urban
Bethesda, Silver Spring, and Arlington are some of the best suburban downtowns in America. Baltimore's suburbs, by comparison, have lagged behind. But with large infill projects coming to Towson and Columbia, Baltimore's most walkable suburbs may soon catch up with DC's.
In Towson, 1500 new residential units have opened in the past 4 years, with the largest redevelopment, Towson Row, announced just last week. The change has been enough that the Maryland Transportation Administration is now considering a Towson circulator bus network.
Columbia has further to go. Towson at least has a traditional grid of streets around which to build. Columbia, by comparison, was planned in the mid-20th Century around a mall. All Towson really needs is more buildings; Columbia must be reworked from the ground up.
But they are getting there, slowly. In 2010 Howard County adopted a master plan to make downtown Columbia more urban. And now, actual projects are in the works.
Developers are moving forward with a 9-story infill project after plans for a 22-story one on the same property fell through. The shorter project is actually denser. It will have 160 apartments, 12,000 square feet of retail, and 130,000 square feet of office space, compared to 160 apartments, 11,000 square feet of retail, and no office space in the 22-story version. The 22-story tower was proposed nearly 10 years ago, and was a more suburban design.
Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future both Towson and Columbia will continue to lack an important piece of the urban puzzle: regional transit. DC's suburban downtowns have the advantage of Metro, but Baltimore's Metro is smaller, and serves neither Towson nor Columbia. Long range plans call for an eventual light rail connection to both places, but that's decades away.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
- Why the left is wrong about affordable housing
- Terrorism fear takes over security at the Library of Congress
- How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 41
- The Dutch government is trolling DC over marijuana, bike lanes, and streetcars
- 33% of Metro rail trips stay within one city or county. Where are they?
- These maps show when and where riders use the Silver Line
- In Chicago, you can charter your own L train