Thursday evening about 35 people participated in an exercise to help plan for the revitalization of Elkton’s town center. Part of a brain storming process, it provided community-level input for consultants from Design Collective and R K & K, a team that is developing a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) plan, in cooperation with WILMAPCO, the Maryland Department of Transportation, and the municipality.
Elkton has great potential to enhance its downtown area as a result of its central location on the northeast corridor, the consultants noted. Currently along the 460 miles of commuter rail between Richmond, VA., and New London, CT., there is one major gap, the 20 miles from Perryville to Newark. Once passenger service is restored it will aid further economic development and provide greater travel choices to the rapidly growing area.
Working in enthusiastic groups with facilitators, a lively, informative discussion ensued around future strategies, which will contribute to the revitalization and strengthening of the historic town. These were important questions related to the overall quality and health of the larger community, such as what type of future development should occur downtown, how does the old business draw visitors back to Main Street, and how does the county seat become a walkable community centered around the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot.
This early part of the planning process seeks to identify the strengths, weaknesses, barriers, and opportunities around implementation of a strategy. That’s where the groups came in since they provided community level input. After spending about 40 minutes talking it over in small clusters, the groups made their reports and there were plenty of ideas for the planners to work on. Most started off by saying that Elkton needed to leverage its historic resources and protect those assets since a town’s heritage provides a unique competitive asset. There was plenty of agreement that unique shops and restaurants are needed in the business area in order to get people to make this part of the community a destination. Also most seemed to agree that infilling of space needs to occur since there are many open areas in the town center. These open spaces, mostly surface parking lots, detract from a town’s character and such valuable space could be used for contributing purposes. There were also plenty of talk about the need for public spaces and spheres, such as small parks and areas for people to congregate and socalize.
In terms of barriers, there was discussion about the decline of the central business district as a center of employment. In addition many noted the pressing need for a place to gather now that Judy’s Java has closed.
It was a lively engaging, meeting, full of lots of ideas, which would strengthen a Main Street. Professional planners will take the input