Town to see blueprint for Main Street Consultant's report on revitalization plan to be debated tonight

'All things are possible'

Officials to use study, citizen input to chart a course for projects

November 24, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After months of work sessions, interviews and research, Sykesville will make its vision for Main Street public today.

"Downtown has to be the vibrant focal point of Sykesville," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "It is both the economic center and spirit of the town."

Officials will use the study, prepared by Baltimore-based consultants, and comments from the hearing to set goals, then formulate and fund improvements needed to reach those goals, the mayor said.

The town awarded Kann and Associates a $16,000 contract in September to do much of the initial work on the project that will launch the revitalization of the downtown historic district.

"We are at a crossroads and must reinvent our master plan, pick a direction and follow through," said Herman, who is asking the town's 3,500 residents to help in the effort.

Donald R. Kann and his staff met with "a broad section of community leaders and activists," Herman said. "We wanted to get everybody's voice and hear all concerns. It is important for the town and its citizens to share a common vision for Main Street and downtown."

Rather than draw major conclusions from his research, Kann said he tried to develop goals and a sense of how to approach the master plan for the municipality, which shares a river front -- the South Branch of the Patapsco -- with Howard County.

"Generally everyone felt that Main Street must be the key area," Kann said. "There is a great deal of interest and enthusiasm for making downtown a substantially more active retail area than it currently is."

The business district has few vacancies -- often, it has none.Several entrepreneurs are renovating storefronts, restoring the buildings to their turn-of-the-century appearance.

"We have a largely identifiable Main Street that for the most part is physically the way it has been since its inception," Kann said. "What we need to determine is where can public money encourage private development. All the pieces are in place, and all things are possible."

In his interviews, Kann heard concerns about the historic character, redevelopment opportunities -- particularly along the river front -- and parking, he said.

The role of the Historic District Commission in the revitalization is critical, he said. The Town Council recently settled months of heated debate by voting unanimously to support the commission in its efforts to keep renovations within guidelines established by the U.S. Department of the Interior, standards that, for example, prohibit vinyl siding in historic districts.

Several business owners had lobbied heavily for using vinyl in restoration projects. The commission has repeatedly denied those requests.

"The historic district and Main Street are the same thing," Kann said. "We have to get everybody playing off the same sheet of music. The forum will get the business community and the public working together."

The meeting is an opportunity for citizens to participate in a close-to-home planning session, Herman said. But it is also important to developments and businesses on the town's borders, he said.

"We have a shopping list and schedules, plans and layouts," said the mayor.

Hoping interest in the project will draw many residents, officials have scheduled the meeting at Sykesville Middle School, 7301 Springfield Ave., at 7: 30 p.m.

Information: 410-795-8959.

Pub Date: 11/24/97

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