From ashes, a new plan

Plaza proposed by Mount Airy man for post-fire build

September 23, 2007|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun reporter

Developer Rob Scranton will go before the Mount Airy Planning Commission tomorrow to present a proposal to incorporate an adjacent property into the rebuilding of the Bohn Building, which was demolished recently after a three-alarm fire downtown.

Scranton's redevelopment plan calls for a commercial plaza, set back from the Main Street sidewalk, combining the Bohn site and Scranton's neighboring property at 114 S. Main St., where he was scheduled to begin construction on a project just days after the Sept. 2 fire.

While pushing redevelopment efforts, Scranton is working on opening a temporary trailer business-park by the end of next month for the seven Main Street businesses displaced by the fire, which caused more than $4 million in damage.

To establish the business park, the Carroll County Department of Economic Development awarded Mount Airy an $82,000 grant last week.

"The temporary business park is going to happen," Mayor Frank M. Johnson said. "It's also a real sign of hope that two weeks after the fire, we're looking at a site plan already, at least a concept to rebuild the building that burned down."

Working with Plymouth Road Architects in Catonsville, Scranton said he was submitting an amended site plan Friday for his two Main Street properties in advance of the Planning Commission meeting.

The new plan calls for one building, with an outdoor plaza set back 30 feet from the sidewalk at the 114 S. Main St. site. On the old Bohn Building site, the new building would be 15 to 20 feet from the sidewalk, Scranton said. Wider sidewalks would create more room for planters and benches, for shops to display signs and merchandise outside.

"The opportunity to push [the building] back some really helps the merchants interact with the pedestrian traffic, without impeding it," said Scranton, owner of CBI Development Group and Catonsville Homes. "If it's too big an area, it won't function as an intimate space."

The proposed structure would have a fa?ade similar to the old Bohn Building and would appear separate from the 114 S. Main St. site from the outside, though inside it would be one connected space, he said.

A new mixed retail space to include an upscale restaurant had previously been planned for the 114 S. Main St. property next to the recently rebuilt Mount Airy Town Hall.

With Main Street's charred Watkins Building also trying to preserve its historic brick fa?ade, the rebuilt downtown should maintain much of its older character, Scranton and Johnson said.

Work also progressed last week on the temporary business park that is to be located in the parking lot of downtown's old train station.

Brush and trees along the lot's edge were cleared and it was graded Thursday, town officials said. Scranton said the displaced business owners also went to select their portable offices, which should be delivered by the first of next month.

He said five of the businesses, including A Do or Dye day spa, Inspiration Point, Retro Metro and Matrix Solutions, will set up shop in the temporary park.

"There's very little vacancy [downtown] that's available for a short-term rental," Scranton said.

Meanwhile, he said that Mount Airy's Olde Town Restaurant, which sustained extensive smoke and water damage, plans to reopen in about 90 days. But Main Street manager Kelly Ziad said the remaining downtown businesses are struggling with the lack of shoppers.

"A lot of people think Mount Airy is closed because of the fire," she said. "But we're open, striving and thriving just as we have before."

The Mount Airy Main Street Association is putting together a volunteer list to match those with skills in carpentry and other trades to businesses trying to re-establish themselves in the temporary trailers, Ziad said. The volunteer list will be maintained on the town or local Chamber of Commerce Web site.

As the redevelopment plans move forward, town officials have a large streetscape project in the back of their minds. Such a project, ideally funded by the State Highway Administration, would cost millions of dollars and could involve the rerouting of utility wires underground, officials said.

A renovated streetscape would outfit Main Street with decorative lamps and other aesthetic features. The planned streetscape of Baltimore Street in Taneytown is estimated to cost $12.8 million, according to the State Highway Administration.

Environmentally friendly features could be incorporated into the rebuilding of Main Street, Johnson said.

In another project to redevelop the historic train station site, developer Brian Gallagher is partnering with Scranton.

Gallagher is expected to present those plans at meetings of the Mount Airy Main Street Association and the Planning Commission next month.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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