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Tag Archives: Towson Center

Today is the last day of classes for the spring semester at TU, so it’s probably a good time to review the last year in Town & Gown relations.

 

Homecoming tailgate – After the 2007 fiasco that spilled into the community, Towson administrators did what they could to squelch and problems (and fun) from the event. There were significantly less people attending the annual tailgate. Presumably there was less underage drinking and parties in the community still occurred, but from reports, weren’t any worse than last year. And that’s all we can ask for, right?

 

 Crime in the bar district – Alcohol related incidents continued to increase this year. As of the fall, public intoxication, underage drinking, fake IDs, public urination and DUI had all increased in the bar district among Towson students. The community gripes that those caught are just a few of the offenders as many drunken students make their way back to houses in the residential neighborhoods. The University tells community members that they should call 911 and the Towson Life Line for assistance. Neighbors haven’t and won’t be satisfied with either response.

  

The Great Arena Battle – Beginning at the end of January, Rodgers Forge made it very clear that they did NOT want the University to expand the Towson Center in the manner that was planned. Noise and parking were the two biggest complaints. The key problem, though, was the lack of communication. RF residents found out about the plans through the Baltimore Sun and/or trees being ripped out from behind their houses at 8 a.m. on New Years Eve. After two closed-door meetings, the sides agreed on moving the site to the opposite side of the Arena. It meant more costs for Towson, but relieving the headache was worth it. That’s one expensive Tylenol. The sides signed an MOU. We’ll see how long it lasts.

  

That’s part one in my review series. Check back for more tidbits on Tigerfest and rental properties.

The fun part has begun. It’s the Q&A session. The community has come out swinging once again. They want to know where all of the additional students are going to be housed.
Pat Foretich of Rodgers Forge is upset because right now only 50 percent of full-time undergrads will be housed on campus. This is actually 10 percent above the national average, however, at the size of Towson’s campus, it would mean as many as 7,000 students living in the surrounding communities.
There has also been the suggestion thrown out there that the University should build on the wetlands behind the Towson Center and the auxiliary practice fields. This land runs right up against Rodgers Forge. RF just spent the last two months fighting to keep the Towson Center addition from behind built too close to their property, but now they are talking about wanting to put student housing there. This doesn’t make any sense for either side. It’s an example of a Lose-Lose. TU loses because they have to lose an ecological preserve. RF loses because you are adding maybe 1,000 students as next door neighbors.
This is the discovery phase of the Master Plan update process. I guess all pitches have to be heard. Not all of them would work or make sense.

It may just be a “baby step” as Janice Moore, president of the Rodgers Forge Community Association, put it, but at least, it’s a step in the right direction. The RF residents and a few University officials were on hand for the signing of a memorandum of understanding regarding the Towson Center Arena expansion Thursday night in the lobby of the controversial complex.
While both sides laughed and joked, before the RF residents went out for a few cocktails in celebration, the overall feeling of the event seemed a bit tense. While the lights were and the display was set with the official Towson athletics background, everybody was happy-go-lucky. Afterward though, it was clear that RF came out of this feeling like the victors as University officials moved toward the doors as soon as the ink met the documents.
RF residents gladly huddled around for another 45 minutes as some fans arrived for the women’s basketball game at 7 p.m. The victory in regard to the Towson Center, though, is just a small part of the greater problem. Fact is, the community still feels pushed to the back burner by the University. Even though President Caret signed the document, it’s still just and agreement; not a finalized project plan. Things can still change, and as we’ve seen with the Towson Center construction (which began as a small renovation and grew to a $30 million renovation to finally a new arena) anything can change at any time.

I’m not sure what to expect. Three weeks ago a hostile crowd dressed in all red filled the Towson Center in protest of the arena expansion plans. Hecklers hollered from the seats, while those standing the back barked out remarks that probably shouldn’t be repeated. In short, the last word I would have used to describe the setting was “understanding.” Today, in less than three hours, the scene will again be the Towson Center. This time, in the lobby outside of the arena, it should be a gathering of warm happy feelings. An oddly abrupt twist I must say. TU President Robert Caret will be there this time, unlike the Jan. 21 meeting when VP Jim Sheehan was left to hang for the University’s miscommunication. Caret and representatives from Rodgers Forge will sign a Memorandum of Understanding on plans for the new arena expansion. The new plans for the 5,000-seat basketball facility will now cost more than the budgeted $45.4 million. Where this extra money will come from is only a guess at this point. Seeing all of the teeth reflecting the flashbulbs from the event will be an bizarre site. We’ll see how long this mutual appreciation lasts.