Council acts to revitalize downtown Members approve plans to provide more parking

Building to be razed

City will share cost of garage at Farmers Supply Co.

November 10, 1998|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

The Westminster Common Council took steps last night to bolster the downtown business district.

The council:

Applied for a loan to finance its share of the cost of a parking garage at the former Farmers Supply Co. at West Green and Liberty streets.

Bought a former fertilizer plant in the first block of Railroad Ave. to raze the building for a parking lot.

Purchased a grassy plot in the first block of E. Main St. for a minipark, which will include a downtown business directory and kiosk. City officials plan to landscape the plot, at the entrance to Locust Lane shops, and might use it for small events.

The action at last night's council meeting was part of a decadelong effort to revitalize the central business district. A 1994 study identified additional parking as a significant part of the revitalization effort.

The study listed the Farmers Supply Co. property as a key downtown building that "would be an ideal location for a quality housing development or office complex."

Carroll County Bank & Trust Co. is building a $4 million to $6 million office complex and parking garage on the 1-acre property. The bank is working with city government on the project.

"I think the property is very much wanted for parking," Councilwoman Suzanne P. Albert, chairwoman of the council's Public Improvements Committee, said before last night's meeting.

She said a recent experience showed the need for additional parking. She went downtown for a luncheon engagement and circled Longwell Municipal Parking Lot three times before she found a vacant space.

Westminster, which has pledged $1.5 million to the parking garage construction, anticipates borrowing $800,000 to $1 million through a state Department of Housing and Community Development loan program. The program allows Maryland towns to borrow at low interest rates.

Richard Hillman, loan program manager, said the council will receive a letter of commitment after the loan is approved. He expects the program to sell bonds in February to finance promised loans.

Thomas B. Beyard, city planning and public works director, said the amount of Westminster's loan will depend on the garage's size, which has not been determined.

Carroll County Bank officials had hoped to move into new offices by October next year but have postponed the move by about five months.

Planning took longer than expected, and bank officials decided that if they couldn't move by next fall, the move should be rescheduled for spring 2000, Michael L. Oster, the bank's president and chief executive officer, said last week.

The scheduled acquisition of the 1.15-acre Southern States Cooperative property two blocks north of Main Street will provide additional parking. The city will buy the property for $151,760.

Councilman Stephen R. Chapin suggested last week that Westminster could rebuild the passenger train station near Main and Liberty streets as a tourism center.

"That is a long-term vision. I think what we need to do is sit down and have a vision for all that property before we start putting in meters," he said.

The city will buy and landscape a .05-acre grassy plot on East Main Street at Locust Lane walkway.

Acquisition of the plot from the heirs of Herman M. Rosenberg -- owner of the property that became Locust Lane shops -- will give the city control of one of the few green areas downtown.

"Small as it is, it's still important because it's still the crossroads from the library," said Chapin, who has been active in downtown revitalization since he helped form Greater Westminster Development Corp. in 1994. He lobbied Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan for better landscaping, but the city couldn't act until Rosenberg family members agreed to sell the property to the city for $16,500.

City officials plan to landscape the plot and install a business directory and kiosk.

"What we hope is that this would become like a downtown commons," Beyard said.

Pub Date: 11/10/98

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