Elkton’s Revitalization Effort Could Learn Something by Looking at Pitman, NJ Cecil Whig Says

While downtowns across the nation will never be what they were in the era before suburban shopping centers, big box stores, and Internet merchandizing, some Main Streets have had successful turnarounds by leveraging the arts, culture, and history.  One of the places that has won its fight to restore vitality is described in today’s Cecil Whig by columnist Ed Okonowicz.    

In “A Tale of Two Downtowns” the paper says “the lines are long and the streets are crowded, especially on show nights” in Pittman, NJ, a vibrant place, where the arts are alive.  This small NJ town drew on its unique history and cultural resources in its successful fight.  In contrast, the paper said: “Anyone who has visited Elkton knows there’s not much in the county seat to attract tourists or locals.  Attempts to create an artistic center are slow going, and many shop owners are hoping for an upturn in the economy.  Of course, it didn’t help matters when county decision makers – the smartest folks in the room – relocated a significant portion of Elkton’s downtown workforce to the new administration building off Route 40.”

Okonowicz suggests, “If you get a chance, take a ride to Pitman when the Broadway Theater is offering a performance.  . . . You’ll be amazed at how busy a little downtown can be.”   

Someone Noticed is always pleased to see the daily paper report on such important matters.  For nearly 15 years, Elkton has struggled with revitalization and about ten years ago an independent nonprofit headed by Commissioner Mary Jo Jablonski was created to spearhead the process.  The Elkton Alliance, the private group, is largely financed by the municipality. 

The Whig last explored the fight to save downtown in April of 2009, when it reported that shop owners, officials, and residents disagreed on the current condition of the old business district and they hadn’t agreed on the best way to bring more business downtown.  “And they’re not sure what they want the town’s future to hold,” the Whig wrote as it described the challenges


8 responses to “Elkton’s Revitalization Effort Could Learn Something by Looking at Pitman, NJ Cecil Whig Says

  1. Wow! This Someone Noticed blog sure gets responses from its readers, even when it just makes a slight mention of an article in the Whig. These commenters certainly show there is avid interest, and plenty of ideas, for revitalizing the old downtown.

    • RedRighter: In this instance, Someone Noticed is one of the first to defend the Mayor & Commissioners of Elkton. While the searching is still on for a successful strategy downtown by the private organization that is charged with that responsibility, the Mayor & Commissioners have done their part by funding the process. The challenge is getting the vision right, developing the right ideas that’ll work in this unqiue environment and working toward those goals. There are many challenges ahead.

  2. As a formerly 35 year resident of Elkton and Cecil County in general, I couldn’t agree more. After moving to Chestertown a few months ago, I see a vast difference in the approach to attracting people to the town. There are numerous theaters, restaurants and other businesses here that allow for almost something different every night. On top of that, there are always events going on here that add to the attraction. Now admittedly, this is a college town, and a liberal arts college at that, which makes it a more conducive environment for the arts, plus there’s one other key element here that Elkton lacks, a legitimate waterfront that enables things like the tallships weekend that was here during Halloween. Still, there are ways to bring people. I mean, a lighted holiday tour of the lawyers offices and bail bondsmen probably wouldn’t bring in too many folks.
    I think a good first step would be to bring a legitimate theater into town. A place that could attract musical acts, plays, live performances, lectures, films, etc. Elkton is close enough in proximity to a large population of people that something like that could bring in, and once there is an attraction or two, the town could build off of that, adding restaurants and other businesses to cater to the new influx of visitors, as well as locals who could consider the town a destination instead of simply a crossroads to pass through while heading somewhere else to spend their money. It’s a Field of Dreams thing; build it and they will come.

    • Editor:

      Thanks for your comments. The town really needs to get a reasonable vision figured out on what they can do downtown and work toward that goal. We once thought it was that of a center of govenrment employment where there would be eateries to support the downtown office workers and shops and things like that. But the town took a major step back when it lost almost 200 office workers a couple of years ago. We were surprised the Alliance didn’t do everything it could to stop that. Heck a blog would have been a good idea to bring attention to the harmful impact of that move.

      It advertises Main Street as a place where the Arts are Alive but there’s no real support for the remaining cultural institutions in town. With each passsing year, it gets harder to figure out what the right strategy is.

  3. For all the money Joe Fisona gives Mary Joe to revitalize the town they should be able to do something to fix it up. Just something with our tax money. That $100,000 a year he gives them to keep two people working at to revitalize Elkton is over a million bucks now. That doesn’t count the money the police and public works spend helping her. Think what Port Deposit, North East or Chesapeake City could do with that kind of taxmoney. That Okonowicz always attacks Obama for trying to fix up the economy. He should live in Eklton. We have had Joe’s stimulus package for a long time, but it don’t stimulate anything. Why don’t he write about that.

    • Night Watcher: If we were the town, considering the substnatial investment of public money in the process, we’d require regular reports with real outcome measures so we could see if it’s working or not. Identify the practical, realistic vision for Elkton, along with the milestones to improvement, seems to be something that’s misisng in this investment. Also we’d push the private create to reach out and create partnerships with everyone. Surely there are some opportunities in Elkton.

  4. To Night Watcher may I say I agree with you. At one time I was employed by the one and only Elkton Chamber of Commerce. I tried to promote our old and historic houses in and around town. At that time there was no help at all from the town. I know I could have gotten some events that would have brought the residents into town and I do not mean decorated elks. The Elkton Alliance is a farce and does nothing to promote this historic town. Mike Dixon knows all about the good things there are here to promote. I do think that even a movie theatre would help right beside an ice cream parlor.

    • Joan:

      Thanks for your comments. With each passing year, the challenges definitely get harder. Imagine if you had such resources to work with a few decades ago, what could’ve happened. We’d really enocurage the Alliance to reach out and try to buld more partnerships in the community. Thanks for your hard work on behalf of the community when you were with the Elkton Chamber

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