Downtown Mall Project to Begin next Summer

Published: November 18, 2019

CUMBERLAND — The renovation of the downtown Cumberland mall is expected to begin next summer, according to officials.

Currently an outdoor pedestrian mall, the Baltimore Street Redevelopment Project calls for the replacement of aging underground utility lines beneath the pedestrian mall, then installing a one-way street from Mechanic Street east to George Street.

Baltimore Street had formerly extended through the downtown until it was bricked over in 1977. The project is also expected to include cosmetic updates to the city center, including parklets.

Paul Kelly, executive director of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., discussed the project during the group’s Tuesday meeting. The nonprofit CEDC oversees much of the economic development work within Cumberland city limits.

Kelly said he is optimistic an estimated $2.2 million funding gap for the $9.4 million project will be filled in a timely manner.

“We feel we will have the balance of the money before the project is even close to starting in the summer or late summer of 2020,” Kelly said.

The project was recently awarded a $3.2 million grant from the Maryland State Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternatives Program.

The grant brings the total funds secured for the project to $6.4 million. The project had already been awarded $2 million in a previous round of TAP funding. In addition, it has received $1.25 million in grant funds from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

The city has funded $630,000 in engineering work completed by the EADS Group. The Downtown Development Commission has funded $47,500 for a design plan from Cochrane Studios.

“We are actively working with our partners to increase ARC funding,” Kelly said. “We are working with folks at the Federal Economic Development Administration and our Western Maryland (District 1 legislative) delegation and folks from the governor’s office for the possibility of another capital grant.”

Kelly said he hoped the funding sources can be secured during the coming session of the Maryland General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 8.

A timeline to complete the work on the mall is estimated at 18 months, according to Kelly.

“To do construction on the main thoroughfare that would be one year,” said Kelly. “Also, the parklets could take six months. It could either overlap for a portion of that, or be at the end of that. A lot of It depends on where the utility lines are and the replacement of those, and whether we are going to bifurcate any portion of it to accommodate businesses in terms of mitigation plans because the whole street will be closed at one point.”

Kelly said efforts will be made to minimize disturbance. He said once the work goes to bid and a contractor is selected, plans will be made to minimize dust and other potential disturbances to existing businesses.

John Balch, CEDC board member, asked if plans were made to create convenient parking for the proposed 48-room boutique hotel planned for the former M&T Bank Building at 166 Baltimore St. The CEDC is hoping to bid that job to prospective developers after the downtown renovation work is complete.

Currently, plans for the boutique hotel include valet and other customer parking utilizing the Center City Parking Garage at the corner of South George and West Union streets.

“You’re going to need to plan for access to the parking garage,” Balch said. “You don’t want to walk up around and all the way back around for people to park. That is very inconvenient.

Kelly said the issue is under consideration and options are being reviewed.

“During the urban design (phase) we looked at the Roses (department store) area and building beside Chessie (Federal Credit Union) … possibly acquiring a property beside their branch,” Kelly said.

He said if a building beside Chessie could be razed, an access pathway could be constructed that led directly to the parking garage.

“Those are some of the options, but we are looking at all the possibilities available to us (to address the issue),” said Kelly.

Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.

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