Businessman quits post as president of Main Street group

Successor to be elected this month faces projects in works in Ellicott City

January 13, 2003|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The Ellicott City Business Association will be looking for a new president this month as Jared Spahn, who has led the group for two years, steps down and moves his companies' offices to Waverly Woods.

The news comes just before the group's annual elections, which are scheduled for the end of the month. Spahn said he is hoping a few candidates will step up to lead the group, but so far no one has.

"I'm not going to be here as much as I'd like to be, and it should be done by a merchant on Main Street," he said. "I'd like to still stay involved with the organization [and] stay on with the Taste of Ellicott City."

Whoever takes the reins will have a handful of jobs, from planning quarterly events for the town to helping it prepare for a railroad celebration in June. The new leader also will have to follow through on projects such as a unified marketing campaign, getting new lampposts and a trolley and lobbying for a parking garage.

"Unless somebody else equivalent to him can step up, I think it will be a loss," said Chris Cotter, president of Cotter Integrated, an advertising agency on Main Street. "It's a very tough job, because you have a lot of different agendas that you need to get people together on. Getting everyone to cooperate is the tough part."

Spahn said he decided this month to move his companies, Old Town Construction and First Real Estate, after a deal to purchase another building in Ellicott City fell through. Space had become so cramped at 8000 Main St. - the building that housed Donald R. Reuwer Jr.'s Land Design and Development, Spahn's companies and Waverly Real Estate - that employees were sharing desks, he said.

The new office is temporary, but Spahn said he intends to build an office for himself in the same community.

In the two years since Spahn became leader of the business association, it has taken on several projects, most of which were aimed at molding the town into more of a tourist attraction.

In his first year, he focused on community beautification, getting weekly street sweeping, decorating utility poles with coordinated banners promoting the town and coordinating the placement of potted plants along the sidewalks on Main Street.

Spahn also rallied business owners behind the idea of purchasing a trolley to shuttle visitors from satellite parking areas to the shops along the main shopping corridor, and he organized a Taste of Ellicott City community event to help raise money for it.

Last year, after plans for the trolley were derailed - the group had enough money to buy the bus, but not enough to run it - he organized the developers of nearby communities that are under construction to help pay for its maintenance. Spahn also put his efforts behind helping develop the area's master plan, planning old-fashioned lampposts along Main Street and lobbying for a parking garage.

Throughout, a hallmark of Spahn's tenure has been his ability to unify the many, splintered groups in town and raising funds.

Last year, developers Reuwer and Bruce Taylor each pledged to give the organization a portion of the profits from each lot sold in nearby developments. Those pledges are expected to net the association as much as $40,000 in coming years.

"When I [came on] as president, I said we have to look at this long-range," Spahn said. "I wanted to get things ready [as a tourist attraction] so that when people come, they'll have something to look at. We have a lot of successful businesses down here."

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