Mall renovation on target for next year

Published: November 15, 2021

CUMBERLAND, Md. — The Cumberland Economic Development Corp. offered updates Tuesday on several key projects including the downtown renovation, Cumberland Gateway and the future of 19 Frederick St.

Matt Miller, executive director of the CEDC, conducted a meeting on the topics from the organization’s new location at 15 S. Centre St. He said steps are being taken to help businesses along the downtown pedestrian mall during construction related to the $9.7 million Baltimore Street Access Project.

The project, which includes reinstalling Baltimore Street through the mall, is currently undergoing reviews by the state and federal highway administrations but is expected to get underway next year.

“We are aware it has been in the review process and it’s navigating through that,” said Miller. “City engineering informed me that there was notification from (the Maryland Department of Transportation) that they are proceeding with their next round of reviews. So we sent in our initial project, they sent back comments and we then responded, and then there is another review of those comments.”

Miller said a precise timeline can’t be given on the project until it has received “final approval at both the state and federal levels.”

“Hopefully we can get the project out sooner rather than later,” said Miller. “In terms of engineering, we are sticking with a late spring or early summer timeline in which the project will break ground.”

Miller said a mitigation plan is being created to help downtown businesses seek financial assistance in preparation to remain open during the construction period. Many of the downtown businesses will likely have to use their back doors for entry during construction.

“We are putting together a mitigation plan for the businesses that will inevitably experience adverse effects due to the project,” said Miller. “Part of the mitigation is sort of providing a facelift to the back side of those buildings along the Baltimore Street corridor.

“Part of the agreement is to resurface the parking lot between Pershing and Baltimore Street, and that will take place next week. That parking lot has been in disrepair and the city has expedited that work.

“That is sort of a step of the beautification of that back area because we do anticipate it serving multiple purposes, be it outdoor dining or outdoor sales and any public use.”

Miller said the numerous overhead cables and wires located above Merchant’s Alley are also being looked at for ways to reduce the number of wires.

Katherine Getty, a CEDC board member, suggested a central location for businesses to find help including where to seek grants.

Stuart Czapski, economic development specialist for the CEDC, said a website with all pertinent information will be available for businesses.

Czapski said potential funding sources including Community Legacy grants, city funds, the American Rescue Plan Act, capital funds, and Allegany Arts Council grants will be listed. He said the information will appear on the site by the end of the year.

“It’s really an all-hands-on-deck situation,” said Miller. “You have a lot of different organizations paddling together with the same goal. We want to help them navigate through this process.”

Miller also provided an update on a request for proposals sent out last month for 19 Frederick St., which is located across from City Hall. He said the CEDC received 21 proposals and two have gotten their attention as feasible.

The proposals will be discussed at the Dec. 7 meeting of the mayor and City Council at City Hall at 6:15 p.m. One business is centered around the craft brewing industry and the other proposes business space on the ground floor and residential units on the upper floors.

In other news from the meeting, Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss, who is a CEDC board member, said foundation footers for the Starbuck’s being constructed on National Highway beside Taco Bell, as well as for buildings along Maryland Avenue that are part of the Cumberland Gateway project, should get underway any day.

Delays occurred in pouring the footers at the locations after several workers for the construction company contracted COVID. The footers were suppose to be poured in early October.

“The head of construction is meeting this week at the Starbucks,” said Morriss. “They will be coming to Maryland Avenue as well to review that project and we are anticipating it soon. The crew is back and ready to work.”

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