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The Talisman Partnership is planning big changes for Towson Place shopping center on the corner of Goucher Boulevard and Putty Hill Avenue.

They include a new entrance, the addition of Filene's Basement, Wal-Mart and a Red Robin restaurant and the relocation of DSW shoes, according to Talisman point man Jim Schlesinger, whose company has owned the shopping center since 1995.

But the biggest change, after several heated battles since 1995 between Talisman and the surrounding neighborhoods, may be a revised agreement that will govern how future alterations at the center will take place for the next 30 years.

Representatives of Talisman, Fellowship Forest, Towson Estates, Knettishall, Loch Raven Village and Cromwell Valley are working out the details.

"We are in the final stages of ... new covenants," said lawyer Mike Tanczyn, who represents the neighborhoods. Negotiations at this point involve "more tweaking of language than substantive matters."

The covenants address everything from litter and landscaping to how the property can be used and how many square feet of it can be developed.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart will replace the vacant Montgomery Ward next year. Filene's Basement, a high-end discount store, will replace the DSW shoe emporium on the second floor, which will move downstairs into the vacant Today's Man store.

There are three Filene's Basements in the District of Columbia, but this will be the first one in Maryland.

The Putty Hill entrance closest to Goucher Boulevard will be reconfigured.

"Most people use this entrance and it now causes backups," said Schlesinger. "The county is not pleased with it, and if the truth be known, I couldn't disagree."

A new right-turn-only entrance and exit for the 43-acre shopping center from Goucher Boulevard will be constructed if the county approves it.

In addition, Talisman is seeking county approval for a 6,000-square-foot Red Robin restaurant near Blockbuster and for 10,000 square feet of new retail space near Joppa Road, said Schlesinger.

Foundation for change

The new covenants will replace a previous agreement forged in 1989 between the surrounding neighborhoods and Bramalea Ltd., the previous owner of the center.

Those 1989 covenants came with the land when the Talisman Partnership purchased the center about eight years ago with a multimillion dollar plan to convert it from a lagging discount mall to big box stores.

Schlesinger said the covenants were ambiguous and have been the source of a great deal of controversy. "I don't think anybody was pleased with them," he said.

Schelsinger filed suit in Baltimore County Circuit Court in 2001 to have the 1989 covenants clarified after neighborhoods used their veto power to block his plan to build a restaurant instead of a garage on the Joppa Road side of the center.

In April 2002 the Baltimore County Zoning Commissioner granted him a parking variance to allow the Red Robin, but denied him the site he wanted near the congested Putty Hill entrance and suggested he work with the neighborhoods to find a mutually acceptable site on the property and come back to him.

"The neighborhoods weren't satisfied with the parking variance and Mr. Schlesinger wasn't satisfied with the denial of site," said Donna Spicer, executive director of both the Loch Raven Community Council and the Loch Raven Business Association. "That led to the decision to renegotiate the covenants. To the best of my knowledge, things are going well."

The covenants will be incorporated into the zoning commissioner's final decision, which means the county - instead of the neighborhoods - will carry the burden of enforcing them.

Creating new covenants has taken considerable time and effort on the part of a number of people, said Tanczyn, "but if they are signed, it will create a new day on how interested parties have chosen to deal with each other."

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