Working on Revitalizing the Town Center

Over ten years ago, the Mayor and Commissioners of Elkton were presented with a report on revitalizing the central business district.  After listening to citizens and hiring consultants to help plan a revitalization project, the Elkton Alliance was created to develop “a grass roots program” for the business district “dedicated to historic preservation and redeveloping the downtown. Along the way, the nonprofit was enrolled in a state program, “Maryland Main Street.”

At several recent town meetings, citizens have asked questions about the success of the program and its funding.  Since we are interested in the broad subject of revitalization of old town centers and it is something we pay attention to in a much larger sphere, we decided to go back to look at the annals of downtown from the last two-thirds of the 20th century to the present. The article is located over on our history history blog, Window on Cecil County’s Past.  We’ll have more news and current assessments on revitalization on this blog.  It was also reported at the town meeting that the Whig is working on a separate piece and that will be helpful for citizens too since health town centers are important for the overall well being of a community.


8 responses to “Working on Revitalizing the Town Center

  1. Someone else is noticing

    Did the mayor or commissioners ever consider special tax breaks for businesses that would draw people back to Main Street? Have they tried to encourage restaurants to come in to town with incentives? Have they considered grants for theaters/play houses, etc to get someone to build one in town? Have they tried to bring in small department stores? I can count on one hand the stores that people actually would want to go to in town. With Tony the barber passing, Annie leaving and the shoe repair moving out to Rt 279, why is there really a reason to come to town unless you’re going to Colonial Jewelers or Lyons or the Framing Store? Its time to think outside of the box if you want to bring in people and thus increase your tax revenue. Other towns have done it, there’s no reason Elkton can’t.

  2. Michael Rudolf

    Good points SEN, I can’t believe no one else is commenting. Why is it that Elkton can’t reinvent itself in to a town center. Ever see Whitemarsh Town Center on a Friday night? Of course they don’t have parking meters, but why can’t people here think outside the box? Hey SON staff, can you tell us what strides are being made to try and recruit some businesses in to town that we’d want to go to? People want to know!

  3. Elkton got itself named an “arts center” under a state program that does give tax breaks for artsy type businesses and artist studios that locate in that district. That is a nice idea, but it does not give us the kind of community business center that has been going down the drain for many years.

  4. I don’t see a lot of new ideas such as those outlined by Louise, Michael Rudolf, and Someone Else Is Noticing. Since Elkton has lost its anchors, such as the courthouse, the library and major stores, something will have to be done to draw new destiantion spots back to town.

    The courthouse is the one that put the nail in the coffin. Things were tough enough but when 190 workers moved out of town (along with the hundreds of visitors they received), it was a significant shift. If I had been the Alliance I would’ve done everything I could have to kept that office downtown. Now they’re going to have to replace those 200 workers, but from where I don’t know. Those workers were important to the remaining downtown retail economy. I’m surprised that they didn’t pull out all the stops on that one and they should’ve had connnections in that area. Bel Air was considering moving its courthouse workers out of town and they decided not to since it would have such a disasterous affect.

    As for the arts, that is a state wide tax-incentivized program. In Elkton they have some challenges for that to be made into a viable initiative with some probability of success.

    It would be interesting to see a follow up piece in the Whig, outlining the strategies the Alliance has in mind to overcome the barriers that they’re struggling with.

  5. Someone else is noticing

    Ah Mike, the county moving out of town is not a nail in the coffin. The same thing happened to West Chester, PA and they reinvented themselves in to a great destination town. The streets are filled with people on Friday and Saturday night as well as most Summer nights–and not just by college students. Lots of great restaurants, ice cream parlors, bars, and shops people want to patronize. When the government moved out of WC and in to the “suburbs” of West Goshen everyone thought WC was dead, but some good solid planning and the realization by many that there were some great old buildings there to revitalize made the town great again. Elkton should really go up there and take notes!

  6. Oh Someone Else Is Noticing. Good to hear from you again. Have you been to downtown Elkton in years? Perhaps you could give the Alliance a call and suggest that they make a day-trip to West Chester to see what a trendy downtown spot that’s become? It might be helppful as they try to decide on the right strategy for revitalization.

    I’m sticking with my mail nail in the coffin analogy for right now, because what ever strategy you come up with has to have some probability of success. I don’t think the Alliance is working this angle you’re suggesting. If they were, they’d be out there looking to get a destination type resturant to come downtown or a trendy bar or something in that range. Music on Main, a project funded by the Arts Council, has been going on for several years, and it doesn’t seem to be helping with that goal.

    If we could at least have those 200 workers back downtown, I’m sure Wes at the Bagel shop, Mario at Brother’s Pizza or Judy’s Java, would tell you that would be very helpful. I’m not sure where we’ll get that many people of the right demographic back.

    I agree we need a plan, though. Keep posting those comments. We’re glad to have a range of thoughts and be inclusive here. You seem to know a lot about West Chester and what works elsewhere. Perhaps you could volunteer to help them out as they collaborate on devising the strategy.

  7. Someone else is noticing

    Ah I’d love to help if they just put a call out for volunteers. I’ll drive through Elkton every day, but the only time I stop anymore is to pick up something nice for the Mrs at Colonial Jewelers or get something framed. Haven’t found any other need since Tony passed. I would have sat all day in the barber shop and just listened to the stories from Ike, et al about horses, bungled politics, the town and everything else…downtown Mayberry at its finest.
    Now I’ve seen what happened in West Chester and at first it was just sad, now its going so good up there, you get upset about how much you have to pay for parking on a Saturday night!

  8. George, Conowingo

    It is ashame what they have allowed to happen to Elkton. Hardly any reason to go there now because there aren’t any resturants and just two or thee stores. Whenever you do go, you don’t feel safe, even in the middle of the day. Hey At least the other towns round here have fixed themselves up. Look at North East, Chesapeake City, Port Depost, Perryville, and Rising Sun. At least that is goo d news and they did it without all the help Elkton has doing it. Don’t think any of them had to set up a paid organization with bunch of employees to fix up the town.

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