Revitalization plans for Main Street in Union Bridge to be discussed at social Consultant to present suggestions for streetscape

August 26, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

In a land-planning consultant's vision, Union Bridge's Main Street could someday present the kind of historic small-town appearance that lures visitors to park their cars, stroll and shop.

But not today. "Right now, we have lots of concrete and worn-out facades," said John B. Slater of Slater Associates, Columbia landscape architects, site and land planners. The town has assets, "but today it doesn't have the kind of image to make this a really attractive downtown place," he said.

Slater has been working with the Union Bridge Main Street Revitalization Committee since April to design a concept plan for improving the northwest Carroll County community's stagnant Main Street, marred by buildings with peeling paint and deteriorating gutters.

Slater is scheduled to introduce the plan to town residents at the Union Bridge Area Heritage Committee's annual ice cream social from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday at Town Hall, 104 W. Locust St. The social is open to the public.

The revitalization committee, a group of local business owners, retained Slater after concluding that it needed a streetscape concept plan. Union Bridge's Main Street renewal effort began in 1993 when Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. pressed for improvements. The town, working with a county planner, published a revitalization plan in 1995.

Some property owners used the plan to repair or restore historic buildings, but "we decided unless there was more input from the town and some grant money, there wasn't much we were able to do," Jones said.

The mayor said he didn't want to see the downtown business district die in the face of competition from a planned convenience center. The convenience center will be part of a 184-unit residential subdivision that could double Union Bridge's population of 1,000.

"We have to do something with Main Street before our development gets done," Jones said.

Slater said Main Street renewal won't mean much unless the town tackles two major problems: lack of parking and heavy truck traffic.

He suggested that the town buy or lease areas for public parking at the rear of Main Street buildings, making the street accessible from the lots with walkways between buildings.

To slow traffic, Slater proposed "bumpouts" that jut out from curbs to delineate Main Street parking spaces and cause traffic to slow. Main Street is a state highway, Route 75. Slater said SHA officials have agreed to do preliminary surveying for bumpouts and changes in the parking alignment, if the town wants them.

Slater associate Bruce Galloway calculated the cost of facade improvements at $700,000, but said state grants might cover up to 50 percent of the cost.

The truck traffic problem would be eased by county government's plan to build a new section of Ladiesburg Road, to be named Shepherds Mill Road, between the existing end of the road and the entrance to the Lehigh Portland Cement Co. plant.

The project "will allow trucks to get off Main Street," said J. Michael Evans, county public works director. Budgeted at $1.5 million, the project is in planning stages. Evans said construction might begin by the spring.

If town government endorses the concept plan, Slater said his next step will be to apply for a $40,000 to $50,000 planning grant that would allow him to provide specific plans for carrying out the recommendations.

Councilwoman Kathleen D. Kreimer, council liaison to the revitalization committee, was impressed by Slater's plan. "It's going to be expensive, but I don't think it's far-fetched. I think they're common sense ideas," she said.

Pub Date: 8/26/98

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