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.
Did you enjoy this article? Greater Greater Washington is running a reader drive to raise funds so we can keep editing and publishing great articles every day. Please help us be sustainable by making a monthly, yearly, or one-time contribution today!
- More than 20% of people bicycle to work in some DC neighborhoods
- DC added record housing in 2015. That's slowing down price increases.
- Walkers were left out in the cold after the blizzard
- Nobody cleared the Mount Vernon Trail after Snowzilla. Future storms might be different.
- If students were cars, schools would have opened sooner
- Use this map to share your ideas for better east-west travel across DC
- Worldwide links: Cheap(ish) houses