StarTUp at the Armory wows crowd at grand opening, ribbon cutting ceremony

State-of-the-art facility to connect workforce development, entrepreneurship programs with community

By Arthur Smith on September 20, 2021

Wows were heard throughout the masked crowd of business and community leaders as they filed in for the grand opening of the StarTUp at the Armory on Monday morning.

Towson University President Kim Schatzel echoed the sentiment in her opening remarks. “Wow. What an amazing facility we're standing in today,” she said. “This space, the StarTUp, is frankly a startup in so many ways. This startup is intended to be a crucible to ignite economic development for the greater Baltimore region.”

The StarTUp at the Armory is TU’s front door for startups, small businesses and the region’s largest corporations. The vibrant, public-focused space creates new engagement opportunities for regional leaders to connect, convene and collaborate alongside TU’s faculty, staff and students.

The 26,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility is home to signature TU entrepreneurship programs, as well as student competitions and events. Small businesses and local entrepreneurs have access to a number of programs and resources focused on entrepreneurship and workforce development. 

The building also includes 6,000 square feet of dedicated free, co-working space. 

“This space that we’re in right now is available to the public. Take a look at any open space. You can just come in and work on your idea or on your business. You can have a meeting and use our state-of-the-art monitors,” said Patrick McQuown, executive director of entrepreneurship at Towson University. “We don’t require a membership. We don't require any fees.”

Current and former fellows of the StarTUp Accelerator have offices on the second floor. McQuown noted that the annual revenue of those ventures is $4.5 million and that they have raised $2.5 million in non-dilutive funding. 

Before it was transformed into the entrepreneurship and business hub it is today, the building was home to the Maryland National Guard and sat in ruins for decades. Renovations began in 2019 and were only recently completed. 

“I remember standing in this space, looking at big holes in the ceiling, water seeping everywhere and birds flying and nesting in the rafters. It was a ruin, not inhabitable, and certainly not a place that could be easily envisioned as it is today—one of the nation’s very best university business engagement centers,” Schatzel added.

The building’s transformation mirrors the greater transformation of downtown Towson. “I think if you look around this building, especially if you saw what was here before, you can appreciate the transformation that happened on this site in the same way that we recognize that downtown Towson and all of Towson has been undergoing an incredible transformation with billions of dollars of investment,” said Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski.

StarTUp at the Armory main room from above
The StarTUp at the Armory includes 6,000 square feet of dedicated free, co-working space. (Nick Sibol/Towson University)

There is currently more than $1.7 billion in public and private development taking place within a quarter of a mile of TU’s campus. This includes Towson Row, a $350 million retail center that includes student housing and new retail, including Whole Foods, just around the corner from the StarTUp at the Armory.

“That’s more investment per square foot than almost anywhere in the state of Maryland. And I know much of that is a direct result of Towson University and its amazing partners such as the County and Greenberg Gibbons,” Schatzel said.

The StarTUp at the Armory is just one of the many current projects that not only connects TU to Baltimore County’s central business district but solidifies TU’s status as an anchor institution and economic driver for the region.

Earlier this summer, 600 TU staff members moved from offices on campus into 401 Washington Avenue, a university-owned building located across the street from the StarTUp at the Armory. Key offices relocated include the Office of Technology Services, the Division of University Advancement, and the Division of Strategic Partnerships and Applied Research.

“I have to tell you that projects like this only further fulfills our mission as an institution providing leadership for the public good. This Armory is just part of a series of projects that are bringing our campus community and greater downtown community closer together,” Schatzel said.