Revitalization effort starts More than a dozen city shopping areas being targeted

Main Streets

May 03, 2000|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

More than a dozen neighborhood shopping districts in Baltimore will be targeted for revitalization over three years under Baltimore Main Streets, a citywide preservation program launched yesterday.

The city will kick in $1 million this year to run the program, adapted from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Main Street Center, Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday.

Another $500,000 will come from the state, with $26,000 expected for capital improvements from each of the commercial corridors selected. The Abell Foundation provided $12,500 to study ways to adapt the program in Baltimore.

Main Street, now in more than 1,500 communities, combines community self-help, physical improvements and modest public funds to spark private economic development. It has generated more than $13 billion in investment from private and public sources since 1980, the National Trust said.

Though it was started to stem the decline of historic, small town Main Streets, the program is growing fastest in urban areas, with cities such as Chicago and San Diego adopting limited versions. In Baltimore, two Empowerment Zone areas had begun setting up Main Street programs before the citywide program's kick off, including portions of East Monument Street and Washington Boulevard. A citywide program in Boston is considered one of the most visible examples of how to transform decaying urban commercial corridors into thriving shopping districts.

O'Malley, who announced the program with city Housing Commissioner Patricia Payne, said strong commercial districts are as important to the economic health of city neighborhoods as the Inner Harbor's transformation was to the downtown renaissance.

"The same thing can happen in our commercial corridors," O'Malley said during an unveiling attended by community leaders and business representatives. "We can make our Main Streets truly things of pride."

Five districts will be chosen this year, with five more in each of the next two years, the mayor said. After that, the program will be re-evaluated and continued based on community demand. The city is in the process of hiring a Main Street coordinator.

The city has identified about 30 commercial districts such as Oldtown Mall, Highlandtown, Waverly, Howard Park, the Reisterstown Road corridor, Cherry Hill Shopping Center, Lauraville, the Govans section of York Road, Pimlico and Garrison/Duvall. Areas outside the 30 identified can also submit applications.

The city is seeking areas that need technical assistance, are physically cohesive and have cooperative neighborhood attitudes and broad-based neighborhood support. A district also needs enough of a financial commitment from a variety of sources to run the program for at least five years. Applicants must attend a workshop May 8 at Coppin State College or one May 12 at Loyola College. The deadline to apply is June 16. Selections will be announced July 27.

Baltimore Main Streets will be run by the Department of Housing and Community Development. Payne, the city housing commissioner, said the two city areas that have started setting up individual Main Streets programs will be folded into the citywide program.

Main Streets follows a formula that includes improving the physical environment; building cooperation among groups with a stake in the neighborhood; promoting the area to customers, investors and new businesses; and strengthening the existing economic base.

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