Sykesville gets advice on luring outside business SOUTHWEST--Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

January 28, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A river, railway and roads all converge in Sykesville. The town of 2,500 has all the assets to attract visitors, but it hasn't learned to promote itself.

Promotion should be the town's "most critical function," said Jack Saum, one of the owners of Baldwin's Restaurant.

"We can create assets, but if we don't get people here, nothing will work," he said. "We can't survive on the population of Sykesville."

Town officials took lessons in promotion yesterday at a breakfast meeting in the renovated train station, which is now Baldwin's. Their teachers were members of the Maryland Downtown Development Association, which helps revitalize Main Street areas across the state.

"If you want to draw strangers with disposable income, find a memorable image that appeals to the sense of nostalgia and charm," said Nicholas Mangraviti, an urban planner who works with MDDA.

He urged officials and businesses to tap into the town's resources. He said that on his first visit to Sykesville this week, he was most impressed with the railway station and the Patapsco River.

"We don't have access to that river," said Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. "We need to develop access or, at least, visibility."

Mr. Mangraviti earned applause when he suggested that municipal leaders work for legislation to delete retail sales taxes in historic districts.

While the town earns high marks for its assets, it scores poorly in access, clarity and structures, Mr. Mangraviti said.

He deflated municipal pride slightly when he asked why the new police station was "stuck in a corner." He criticized the lack of "entrance clarity," which makes getting into Sykesville "arduous."

"The south end is industrial and not attractive," he said. "The north end is a puzzle. Make sure any future growth opportunity helps rather than hinders."

Visitors traveling along Route 32, the main highway to Sykesville, see "no visual invitation," he said.

"Your recycling sign is bigger and more impressive than your town sign," he said. "Find your own special quality and make your town known for it."

Sykesville's specialty -- "anchor and identity" -- could be its railroad station, said Edwin Hunley of the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

"It would draw people to your other shops and extend the economic impact of each visitor," he said. "Get them here and give them something to do for an hour. They'll get hungry and visit your restaurants."

Mayor Helt said Lionel Trains' recent model railroad donation would also attract visitors. The $10,000 worth of model trains and equipment remains in storage while the town searches for display space.

Diane Wiebe, MDDA's executive director, said that she was impressed with Sykesville.

"Its potential is enormous, and its people are willing to work," she said.

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