There are a number of towns in our region that planners charged with restoring vitality to the Elkton town center may look to for ideas. One of the best examples is Havre de Grace. After its business area stagnated in the ‘60s and ‘70s, community leaders started implementing strategies to restore the central business district and they’ve had great success.
This summer walk through blocks full of antiques stores, specialty shops, and fine restaurants located in attractive historic buildings on one of the first Friday’s the Chamber of Commerce sponsors and you’ll see what we mean. The streets will be filled with people who’ve made the city a destination, having come to those several blocks to enjoy the ambiance of a summer evening at the top of the Chesapeake, where there is entertainment, shopping, and fine dining. We’ve watched Havre de Grace make a full cycle with this transformation, from vital mid-century town center to decline and finally to a destination spot for the greater Baltimore area.
To do this they came together and created broad based community support, which included supporting a strong, growing cluster of museums and cultural institutions. Of the five museums at the mouth of the Susquehanna there are five and all of them are fine, while some are outstanding. For a long time the city has supported each of these hard working, largely volunteer based institutions with a stipend to aid in the expansion and development of programs that attract visitors. This current fiscal year, according to the Havre de Grace newspaper, the Record, the city allocated $75,000 in its budget to support those museums. The $15,000 provided to each museum included an increase of $3,000. Mayor Wayne Dougherty, when he proposed the increase, said “he believed the museums had been shortchanged by the city,” considering what they contribute to the local economy.
Mayor Dougherty cites their benefit to the city and its heritage and the paramount role they play in attracting visitors. The local newspaper, the Record, called this support a bargain, saying “These organizations are civic treasures which have played a major role in Havre de Grace’s economic revival and they will continue to be important to this effort. To us, $75,000 is a bargain for the taxpayers to help main their viability.
Each locality, as it seeks to create a unique sense of place and attract people back to town, has to drawn on its own unique assets and resources. Havre de Grace has successfully done that. We congratulate the Mayor and Commissioners of Havre de Grace and the city’s Main Street Program on the success they’ve had with this important program. It was one of our favorite local destination spots.