Is There a Plan for Main Street’s Revitalization Business Owner Asks

Elkton Town Meeting, January 19, 2011 –  Business owner, Wes Walker, asked if there is a plan for downtown revitalization beyond streetscape and what is being done to help struggling Main Street businesses.  “I wasn’t here before the streetscape got done and it looks beautiful downtown, but did you have a five or ten-year plan.  The street was one thing but are there any other ways to draw business downtown.  I know the courthouse moved out.  Are there any other way to have growth downtown on Main Street?” Wes remarked. 

“Residential is a big part of that,” Commissioner Jablonski, the town’s Main Street Manager, answered.  “So the senior housing project will help with foot traffic.  We also have to get rid of certain problems, but we do have ears with legislation and the coalition.  We’re going to have a meeting in two weeks with higher-ups.”   

As the discussion continued about ways help the ailing town center, Wes wanted to know if additional promotions are in the works.  “Besides the festival you put on, is there anything else planned.”  The commissioner advised that a big Memorial Day Parade was being worked on for 2012.  “It takes two years to put on a good parade.  So we have already started with that.  First Fridays are ready.  Brochures should be printed shortly.  Car shows are back.”   

Still mulling over the possibility of having more events, the business owner suggested a town bazaar.  That has been considered, but because of the farmer’s market, it wasn’t possible was the answer.  To the remark about scheduling more events, Commissioner Jablonski noted that they already have a bunch of activities, starting in April and running through October as she also pointed out how hard it is to get volunteers to help produce these things.  “For towns like ours volunteers are getting hard to get.  It’s happening everywhere. . . . We’ve been able to keep up with the volunteers that we have.”  That caused Wes to suggest that perhaps they could get more volunteers.  “Many people that come into the café are willing to help, if there were a sign-up sheet for different projects you’re looking for.”  Comissioner Jablonski said, ‘Wes we already have that.  I keep telling you.”  With the discussion drifting to other points, Wes informed the board, “There are so many people that want to be involved.” 

Commissioner Givens joined the conversation that had been between the business owner and the Main Street Manager/Commissioner about this time, as he recalled the success the town had with earlier Memorial Day Parades.  “We had Dick Reed and his crew to set things up.  There are still people around, if you want to have a parade.  The volunteer group in Havre de Grace is raising money for their parade outside the town.  The town pays nothing.”

Once that was said the Mayor adjourned the meeting.

14 responses to “Is There a Plan for Main Street’s Revitalization Business Owner Asks

  1. What kind of foot traffic will the senior housing project provide? Where will they walk to ? I watched Chester, PA. lose it’s tax base years ago and quickly turn from a thriving business/residential mix into one of the most dangerous slums around. As property taxes rise, and the amenities of living in Elkton dwindle, more people opt out. Why pay so much for so little? Maybe the powers that be should try looking at ideas that have actually worked in other small towns.

  2. Elaine, while the board mentioned some specific things like the parade in 2-yrs and the opening of a senior housing project, they never answered the question he had about whether they have a plan. The challenges with revitalization have grown so much over the last few years, some as a result of the economy, but also because of specific things that have happened here. The loss of the 200 county office workers had to hurt, yet very little was done done to see if that situation could be averted. Then there’s been the loss of the medical billing workers and more. It really needs a comprehensive initiative that includes so many initiatives and lots of intensive work at this point. Anyway thanks for sharing your perspective. The Cecil Whig had a remark by the Whig’s political columnist when smeone challenged him on the fact that the senior housing was going to mean so much for the town. He asked I wonder what the downtown merchants would say to that?

  3. AH HA! I NOW KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO ALL OF MR. LINCOLN’S GENERALS! They all moved to Elkton and are helping the Mayor and Commissioners revitalize Elkton! We had to go through seven Generals before we could finally win the War of the Rebellion and it finally took that drunken fool Grant! Between the seven of them, none of those seven men could find their way out of a canvas sack, therefore, they must be doing working for Commissioner Jablonski!

  4. The old Elkton Chamber of Commerce never had any trouble getting volunteers for the parades they had. The Board of Directors were more than willing to pitch in and help. Mayor Fisona was always willing to jump in and give the chamber help. I believe Commissioner Jablonski got a little too involved with the politics of the chamber and not in the fun it could provide for the residents of Elkton.

  5. How many people they got running that Alliance? [remark edited by Someone Noticed] If you were any kind of so called citizen news site you would report on that wouldn’t you. You mean the people the town pay for there aren’t enough to plan a parade and do a few other things. How much help do they need besides the town public works and police. They have to do all the work just like they always had to before we had that Alliance. I notice you didn’t say anything about what Mary Jo had to say when Wes asked her about the plan. How come you didn’t tell us about that to?

    • Just Sayin’

      The reason we didn’t saying anything about Commissioner Jablonski’s response to the question about having a plan was that the question was never answered. As for reporting on the Alliance, we cover the subject whenever the matter comes up at town meetings. Two people work in that office, since you asked.

  6. James W. Hutchinson

    I was listening to the January 5, 2011 Elkton Town Meeting* on YouTube and the board mentioned an archway that will be installed somewhere around Main Street during the April 2011 time frame. This archway will say ‘Welcome to Elkton Main Street’ or something similar. When I heard this, I was surprised. I am sure it is a nice archway, but I wonder where the money is coming from to pay for it. My hope is that there is a large private donor. I shutter when I think it is being funded by tax money when the reality is: Main Street is simply an unsafe place. Many people I know do not feel safe walking or driving on Main Street, especially at night. I have friends and family who own small businesses on Main Street. They tell unbelievable stories about the things they see and experience around their businesses.

    The idea of an erecting an archway puts me in mind of the new gate that was recently installed at the entrance of Marina Park. It is a nice gate, but why spend the money to install an extravagant gate it there? Again, this does not make sense to me. There seem to be so many higher priority needs where – the money being spent on archways and fancy gates – could really make a difference.

    Can someone explain how town projects such as these are being funded? And – even more puzzling to me – how are projects being prioritized during this very tough economy? After reading this article, it seems that these projects are not part of the town’s strategic plan, which concerns me deeply. Can anyone shed light on my concerns? Is there a strategic plan in place for the Town of Elkton?

    * Ref: January 5, 2011 Elkton Town Meeting – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymxYj2JWnE8

    • James, we’ll follow up on your query and get an answer. Historically in Elkton the downtown revitalization has been funded from public sources. The Town of Elkton largely underwrites the Alliance’s operations and they also obtain some Maryland state grants. The Streetscape was a State of Maryland project. Let me ask the town, so you have the answer on that one.

      Wes never got an answer about whether there was a five year plan that would involve prioritizing in tough times or even having strategies in place so that work was directed in the right direction, creating the possibility of productive observable outcomes. The answer he received to that question was that we’ve got he senior housing project and that’s going to create downtown business and that they’ll have a parade in 2 years. In addition, they have lots of social events planned. That was about it.

      When they first started the downtown revitalization about 12 years ago now, they hired a consultant to draft a plan and the firm spent a lot of time in Elkton. But that was a long time ago and things have changed and you never hear it mentioned as a guidance document. In addition they’ve worked with WILMPACO on plans to enhance the downtown transportation corridor, but they didn’t mention that document yet. Perhaps they’re sitll working on that one.

      But whatever the case, with federally, state, and municipally funded guidance, you’d want some sort of road map, timeline or plan to help guide your work in these challenge times so you get the best results possible from the public funding. That could be done without paid consultants, just by including the larger community and the downtown business people, one would think.

  7. Archway to nowhere.
    Gate to nowhere.
    Projects funded that take our future nowhere.
    Functioning Strategic Plan to be found…nowhere.

    Just ask the county as they prepare a budget that takes us…nowhere.

  8. James W. Hutchinson

    That is an interesting summary. Sounds like there are opportunities to get involved and help drive improvements …

    • James, there was some sort of disconnect on this volunteer thing. When Wes asked about having volunteers help out as he has people coming into the cafe wanting to help out, Commissioner Jablonski said they have a sign-up list at the Alliance. As a downton business-person he didn’t know about that. We agree with Wes, surely there’s an opportunity to expand that resource, but governmentally funded organizations need to reach out a little to support these types of opportunities. Wes seems to know about them and as a business-person he has a vested interested in helping downtown revitalization progress.

      • James I checked into the cost of the gateway. Public works is doing the project with employees on the municipial payroll ad the town advises the only direct outlay of cash is for the raw material. They didn’t have an estimate on the raw materials cost. Thanks for asking about this.

  9. Mike:
    Raoul’s well-presented, poetic comment says it all. There, apparently is NO short or long term well-organized plan for downtown, or it would proudly be made available for all to examine. And if that is true, it speaks volumes about the lack of visible and meaningful progress downtown. In any functioning private business or non-profit operation: “YA GOTTA HAVE A PLAN!” Also, anyone touting the new senior housing project as a boost for Elkton’s merchants is a long term resident of La La Land. Only a delivery service—dropping off groceries, medical equipment or drug prescriptions—might eventually benefit from completion of these residences for the elderly.

    • Red Righter you and Raoul seem to summarizing the situation. If we were the funding agency, we’d want a plan so we could evaluate the viabilit of the strategies and then have it as a tool to measure progress. Without some sort of road-map to guide activities, how do you know where you’re going or where you’ve been. I guess you wait for the next developer to just happen to find you. That’s what happened when a developer showed up at Elk Landing and talked to Commissioner Jablonski about developing a part of that historic tract. They though it was the best idea they’d ever heard, as Commissioner Jablonski tried to push that through the board. They eventually abandoned that attempt after nearly 9 months of arguing. Then there was the project that resulted in successful taxpayer lawsuit over the next development project that came along. Better to have a plan and go out and seek the ideal projects for your town.

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