Where the Past Meets the Future

Revitalizing Cumberland’s Downtown Historic City Center

With the redesign and renovation of Baltimore Street, Cumberland’s Historic City Center will again become the community’s much-used central gathering place, a place of pride and identity for residents, and one of the must-see urban spaces for visitors.

What began as the need to replace aging infrastructure along Baltimore Street has become the transformation of the Downtown Pedestrian Mall into a beautiful, thriving hub that will be open, welcoming, safe, and organized in simple, coherent ways.

Transformation of Baltimore Street Over Time

In the late 1800s, the streets of Cumberland appeared much like they looked four decades earlier – wood-frame, mainly two- and three-story buildings lined Baltimore Street. The streets were paved with wooden blocks, and trolley car tracks supported the transportation systems that began in 1891.

The major buildings of Baltimore Street and most of those on the side streets built before 1940 remain today. Although the occupants have changed, the structures have been preserved. Modern downtown Cumberland remains a city built between 1895 and 1940.

Downtown, especially Baltimore Street and the main cross streets, would change dramatically from 1895-1940. The dirt on the streets and the cinders from trains faded away. The new concrete sidewalks were filled with bustling pedestrian and automobile traffic patronizing the magnificent stores of the “new” downtown Cumberland. In the 1940s, the last frame buildings had been razed and the town’s old Civil War image now boasted modern department stores.

Downtown Cumberland had become the mercantile center of western Maryland and the surrounding region and was easily accessible by the network of highways that radiated from downtown in all directions, including into West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

The 1950s was a time when people dressed up to come downtown and shop at the large department stores and specialty shops. If you wanted to avoid driving, buses frequently ran from other parts of the City so that people had easy access. As more and more people bought cars, transportation around the area was made easy by good roads. However, strip malls and other shopping areas grew on the outskirts of Cumberland. This would change downtown shopping like nothing had in the past.

1975 brought the first revitalization of the downtown Cumberland shopping district with new underground electrical, telephone, and cable TV lines. In May of 1978, construction of the Downtown Cumberland Pedestrian Mall began. Over the years, some of the family stores that thrived to the third generation closed as indoor malls and Internet shopping caused a decline for Cumberland as a regional location to shop. The economic impact of business and industry loss significantly impacted downtown.

Preparing for the Project

When addressing the need to replace sewer lines from the 1900s and electric and water lines that are very much past their prime, a plan was envisioned not only to address those issues but also to revitalize a pedestrian mall installed in the 1970s, which has had dwindling success over the years.

Every effort has been made to maintain the historic feel of the downtown area, with an added focus on enhancing the beauty, safety, and function of Baltimore Street.

Input from local citizens was a priority. Feedback and ideas were gathered at several meetings in which the public was invited to share their vision for Baltimore Street, and the aspects they felt were most important to consider.

The reality of this project coming to fruition is years in the making and a result of many hours of collaboration between the City of Cumberland, the Downtown Development Commission, the Cumberland Economic Development Commission, the Allegany Arts Council, local citizens, and design and research firms.


This project will revitalize the City’s urban core by re-introducing automobile and bicycle traffic on Baltimore Street. Cars activate urban areas and bring vibrancy and connection with other parts of the community -uniting the many transportation systems such as Canal Place, the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, the Great Allegheny Passage, the Amtrak station, the County bus transit system, Interstate 68, and bicycle trails throughout the City.

Downtown businesses and residents will greatly benefit from replacing underground infrastructure that has yet to be improved since well before the 1978 installation of the pedestrian mall. In addition to water, sewer, and electric, the project will also include the introduction of fiber optic cable along Baltimore Street, thereby completing the downtown fiber loop and creating a “giga-bit internet downtown.”

Additionally, the underground construction will allow for the installation of sprinkler infrastructure to buildings along Baltimore Street, promoting upper-story redevelopment for residential purposes and lower-story redevelopment for commercial purposes.

Above ground, the finished project capitalizes on shared space, slow traffic, and a “curb-less” design that provides equal priority to automobiles, bicyclists, and pedestrians.

There will be 20 parking spaces on Baltimore Street for shoppers and diners to take advantage of while enjoying the area. These spaces add to the over 1,500 public parking spaces in downtown Cumberland.

Streetscape and Living Landscape

Painstaking effort has gone into balancing all the various needs of the stakeholders to create a safe, highly livable street, and the streetscape and living landscape are no exception.

Beautiful variations of bricks, differing in color and pattern, will create the illusion of a street but eliminates the need for traditional curbs to separate space. Large, movable planters teeming with flowers and greenery will allow for an easily reconfigured space, which can be closed off for events and activities.

The single-lane street area will be flanked by over 20-foot wide sidewalks allowing for increased pedestrian space and a hearty expanse for the local restaurants to offer outdoor dining.

A tree or a streetlight will stand every 20 feet along Baltimore Street – this spacing is optimal for a safe and light-filled street. Most buildings have either a tree or a streetlight in front of them, and any building facade that is wider might have both.

The chosen trees, London Plane, are tall, fast-growing, high-canopy shade trees – selected for their ability to form an open canopy several stories above the street. As they grow, these trees will be limbed up high over the sidewalk, so branches are above the 12' streetlights, maintaining open visibility to the architecture.

Viewers will be looking upward at the signs, marquees, and architectural features and should see everything well through the rhythm of trunks and light poles that uphold the high canopy and create an open, light-filled area. This plan was designed to keep visibility unobstructed along the entire street.

Planning with Bikers in Mind

Two great hiking & biking trails meet in Downtown Cumberland – the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal Towpath – both tremendous assets to our area. Hikers and bikers can travel from Georgetown, Washington, DC, to Pittsburgh, PA, or anywhere in between. Cumberland, being right in the middle, is an ideal stopping point, whether for a quick bite to eat or for an overnight (or longer!) stay. To enhance the biker experience in Cumberland, Baltimore Street will offer one narrow traffic lane for cars and bikes to share. The design of the street will promote safety through slow-moving traffic. Bike racks will be available in areas that are highly visible and well-lit.

Reinvigorating Baltimore Street

Filled with high-quality light all day and night, the revitalization project will showcase the City's extraordinary architectural heritage with contemporary urban flair – creating a stable, sustainable engine of culture, commerce, and community to propel the City to economic health, prosperity, and vitality.

The re-introduction of automobile and bicycle traffic onto Baltimore street, combined with the accompanying redesign of the streetscape and other related economic development activities, will create more activity during all seasons along Baltimore Street, increasing public awareness and visibility. The revitalized space downtown will also promote community reinvestment in the mixed-use housing, retail, and office space along Baltimore Street.

Reinvigorating Baltimore Street will also improve our residents’ and visitors’ quality of life and enhance their travel experience by affording them transportation access along the historic commercial corridor, highlighting the cultural, aesthetic, and historic aspects of the downtown History City Center.

The Baltimore Street Project Workgroup

Matt Miller, Chair
Executive Director, Cumberland Economic Development Corporation (CEDC)

William Cochran
Project Designer, Cochran Studio

Stu Czapski
Economic Development Specialist, CEDC

Melinda Kelleher
Executive Director, Downtown Development Commission (DDC)

Laurie Marchini
Councilwoman, Cumberland City Council

Becky McClarran
Partner, McClarran and Williams

Dave Romero
Downtown Development Commission Board Member, Baltimore Street Property Owner and Resident

Sandi Saville
Board Secretary, Downtown Development Commission, Downtown Property Owner and Resident

Doug Schwab
Board Chair, Downtown Development Commission

Bobby Smith
City Engineer, City of Cumberland

Julie Westendorff
Executive Director, Allegany Arts Council

Marketing Sub-Committee

Melinda Kelleher
Executive Director, Downtown Development Commission (DDC)

Allison Layton
City Clerk, City of Cumberland

Matt Miller
Executive Director, Cumberland Economic Development Corporation (CEDC)

Sandi Saville
Board Secretary, Downtown Development Commission

Doug Schwab
Board Chair, Downtown Development Commission

Julie Westendorff
Executive Director, Allegany Arts Council

Hear from Some of Our Stakeholders
Ray Morriss, Mayor
Leigh Anne Sipple
Mandela Echefu
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