Revitalized downtown is planned

November 17, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

New Windsor is taking the first steps toward revitalizing its downtown, and officials hope that along the way the effort builds a deeper sense of community among the nearly 800 residents.

"We have never had a Main Street project in New Windsor," said Mayor Jack Gullo. "We can use it to promote togetherness."

The mayor points to history. Nearly a century ago, New Windsor was one of the richest towns, per capita, in the United States. Wealthy landowners and farmers built large, stately houses along its wide, tree-lined streets.

At its crossroads, travelers rested at a popular inn. Its underground springs -- a precursor to today's spas -- attracted tourists, who arrived on the Western Maryland Railway, stayed the weekend and patronized local shops.

Now the Downtown Revitalization Committee wants to trade on the town's heritage and restore its commercial district, from Main Street at Route 75 to the corner of Church and High streets.

"Main Street is the biggest asset any small town has," said Josh J. Lindemon, a Main Street resident, who organized the committee.

The committee, sanctioned by the Town Council, has met once and plans to meet monthly during the three years from planning to completion.

"Restoration all started with an idea among neighbors," said Mr. Lindemon. "Tourists are still coming to Western Maryland. We need to take what we have here and use it to the best of our ability."

Mayor Gullo, who serves on the committee, said the town is taking its first step to revitalization. Members don't envision grandiose, costly plans and are taking an "eclectic approach," he said.

"We want to adapt to what we have and bring the area back to what it once was," said the mayor, who also is a Main Street resident. "As neighbors, we are asking what we can do to make where we live better."

Mr. Lindemon called the committee "consensus builders" who prefer inspiration from town residents to architectural drawings from consultants. "The committee will gather ideas and present them to the town," he said. "Everyone will make contributions."

Each of the 10 committee members is sketching a concept plan for the project before the next meeting.

"Why should we pay a consultant, who doesn't live here, to tell us how our town should look?" asked the mayor rhetorically.

Mr. Lindemon said he would like to start the revitalization with the small park at the corner of Route 75 and Main Street. He would like to place the town fountain, in storage for the past few hTC years, a gazebo and benches on the lot. "We want a park where people want to come and spend time," he said.

Town officials are hoping that the State Highway Administration will soon turn the proposed park site over to New Windsor.

Street lighting, new sidewalks and more trees are also under consideration.

"If we improve the basic infrastructures, we will ensure the public safety," said Mr. Lindemon.

Mayor Gullo said the improvements should draw commercial development. "This is a really ripe area for business," he said. "The Brethren Center has visitors by the bus loads, who often walk through town but find little to do off the campus."

Miller Davis, director of the service center at the edge of town, also is on the committee.

The mayor said interest in retail space is growing, but Main Street is 100 percent occupied with both residents and businesses. Many of the larger homes on Main Street have room for retail activities, said Mr. Lindemon. The side of his home once housed a candy store and later was an antique shop. Now, it is his wife's painting studio.

"A lot of these structures would make great antique shops," he said. "We are open to ideas from anybody who wants to approach us."

The mayor said the Town Council and the Planning Commission want to see the revitalization move forward. He hopes the committee can have a plan to present to the Town Council by late spring.

With a feasibility concept and cost estimates in hand, the town could apply for grant money to finance the project.

"This group could set the stage for what happens to New Windsor in the next 25 years," said Mayor Gullo.

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