Funding complete for Main Street

$2.5 million downtown facelift planned, featuring town square, antique lamps

April 28, 2002|By Justin Paprocki | Justin Paprocki,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

With the last piece of funding in place, Union Bridge is ready to move forward with a $2.5 million project to beautify its Main Street with patterned crosswalks, Victorian-era street lamps and a town square.

"We have a beautiful downtown area, but there's not many businesses in it. We decided we needed to go a little further to make Union Bridge a more positive place for businesses and residents," said James Schumacher, a consultant for the northwest Carroll County town.

When completed in 2004, downtown Union Bridge will be more cohesive - matching crosswalks and sidewalks, new street lamps and parking meters - than the existing streetscape, which features utility wires crisscrossing the road, uneven sidewalks and empty storefronts.

To create a sense of community, Main Street and Broadway will become a town square dominated by a statue honoring William Henry Rinehart, a 19th- century sculptor born in Union Bridge.

Rinehart's work is displayed in museums in Baltimore, Washington, and at the Historical Society of Carroll County. The sculptor studied in Florence, Italy, after working in stonecutting plants in Baltimore and Carroll County. Unable to earn a living at his art in the United States, he returned to Italy in 1858 and died there in 1874.

Revitalized Main Streets often attract new businesses, a welcome possibility to Thomas Winebrener, owner of the Union Bridge Hardware Co., a staple on the thoroughfare for 50 years.

"Like anything else, you've got to go along with progress," Winebrener said, noting he hasn't seen major changes on Main Street in decades. "When it's done, I think it'll be nice."

The revitalization is planned to start in August and should last about a year and a half, said Perry L. Jones Jr., mayor of the town of 1,000. The project includes relocating utility lines underground.

After two years of grant application and other fund raising, the last piece of money for the project came this month when the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development awarded Union Bridge a $220,746 grant. The Community Development Block Grant is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development but doled out by the state.

"We just kept plugging away, and it was a benefit to us," Jones said.

Union Bridge was one of the 18 Maryland communities awarded funding, said Cynthia Schuster, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Housing and Community Development. In all, about $3.2 million was given out.

"Smaller communities do not have the resources to undertake these needed projects alone," said Raymond Skinner, state housing secretary.

"Yet these are the types of community development programs that are vital to our Smart Growth initiatives, which encourage investment in existing neighborhoods to help slow sprawl and preserve open space."

Union Bridge also has received State Highway Administration money for the project and will fund about $400,000 from its own budget, Schumacher said.

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