Leaders want business district improved Development group works to spruce up streets, storefronts

September 12, 1996|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Buoyed by the success last month of Celebrate Taneytown, the city's first festival, business and government leaders now are hoping to reinvent the city's central business district.

Fresh paint is Mayor W. Robert Flickinger's vision. Frank W. Neubauer, chairman of the Taneytown Economic Development Commission, looks for aesthetics and an active, not just cosmetic, business redevelopment. Nancy McCormick, chairman of the commission's beautification committee, wants an atmosphere that will nurture existing businesses and attract new ones.

The economic development group is working to clean up downtown streets, persuade commercial property owners to repair aging storefronts and lure new businesses and industries.

Vacant storefronts and littered streets were targeted in a 1995 consultant's study and marketing plan for Taneytown. The study found that about 4 percent of Taneytown area residents shop or conduct business downtown, the lowest percentage among Carroll's eight incorporated towns.

Paul D. Denton, president of Maryland Midland Railway Co. and a commission member, believes the city has a good chance to revitalize its business district.

"I think they've got a positive attitude and a hard-working mayor and city manager, and council and citizen involvement -- all the things you need to make things happen," Denton said.

Taneytown's boosters tout rail access and road access to Interstate 70 by Route 15. But the city is hampered in attracting new industry by a leaky sewer system that often allows raw sewage to back up into basements during heavy rains.

The city is under orders from the Maryland Department of the Environment to develop an emergency plan to cope with sewer overflows.

The economic development commission can count two planned facade improvements and a new business among its successes. But the 1995 consultant's survey identified nine buildings needing repair or renovation to improve downtown's appearance. Vacancies remain in the commercial district, and the anti-litter effort has had limited success.

McCormick recruited 14 teen-agers who swept streets and picked up trash on Aug. 22. Merchants reacted enthusiastically and offered the teens soft drinks and extra garbage bags, she said.

But within a week or two, trash and cigarette butts again littered Baltimore Street. The city government has asked police Chief Melvin Diggs to crack down on littering, and McCormick plans to organize occasional cleanup days.

East Baltimore Street's newest business is Stair Solutions Design and Distribution Center, at 115 E. Baltimore. Owner Joe Haddon opened a Taneytown outlet for his Frederick business in July.

"I have the ideal spot across from the Country Kitchen," he said. He chose the city because it is central to his service area.

Haddon said no economic development representative recruited him to Taneytown. But he soon received an invitation to join other merchants in informal monthly breakfasts.

Earl King, owner of King's Furniture at 38 E. Baltimore St., sees Taneytown on the edge of a revitalization effort similar to one that restored downtown Frederick.

King said he probably will keep the same look for the furniture store he has operated for 10 years in Taneytown. "But instead of peeling paint, we're getting some siding and maybe changing the windows," he said.

He and his wife, Virginia, closed their furniture store in Frederick in July after 20 years.

Pub Date: 9/12/96

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