Landowners, businesses working together to promote Ellicott City

March 26, 2001|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

After watching tourism steadily decline at the end of the past decade, business leaders and property owners in historic Ellicott City are trying to stir interest in their area with a series of improvements - including a new parking garage - that they hope will bring "curb appeal" to the community and more visitors to their shops.

Ellicott City Business Association (ECBA) expects to spend more than $52,000 raised through private donations this year on street sweeping, potted flowering trees, utility pole banners, quarterly events and a trackless trolley to take visitors from parking lots to shops.

Much of the money will be from property owners, who, with a new alliance among themselves, have agreed to join business leaders in their efforts.

"For the first time, rather than just the businesses wanting to get the town looking good, the building owners are really helping push a lot of things," said Jared Spahn, who heads the business association. "We've got a bunch of building owners who want to show their pride in the community and make it sparkle."

Plans to spruce up the town are being made as Ellicott City has seen its first tourism increase last year after three years of decline, and as the area faces growing competition from The Mall in Columbia, which is expanding, Arundel Mills mall, and a revitalized Savage Mill a few miles away.

Business leaders are trying not only to draw county residents to the historic district but also to make the city a tourist destination.

"One of the things we don't want is to be thought of as a little mill town," said Melissa Arnold, director of marketing for the county Tourism Council, which has offices off Main Street. "We need the partnership with the ECBA to take this to the next level, where [Ellicott City] is not just a local or regional attraction. Knowing the ECBA is on the right track really gives us a lot of opportunities."

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