Mall Renovations not likely to begin until 2020

Published: July 5, 2018

The downtown pedestrian mall is shown in this file photo. The Baltimore Street Project, planned renovations to the mall’s underground utilities and the addition of a one-way street, likely will not begin until 2020, City Administrator Jeff Rhodes said Tuesday.

CUMBERLAND — City officials said Tuesday that the renovations planned for Cumberland’s downtown pedestrian mall may not get underway until 2020.

The city currently has financial commitments from state grants totaling less than half of the estimated $5 million to $7.4 million needed to complete the three-phase project.

Known as the Baltimore Street Project, the renovations include excavation to replace aging wiring and water/sewer lines as well as adding new broadband fiber-optic connectivity. In a second phase, a one-way street will be constructed running from Mechanic Street east to George Street. A third phase will include adding aesthetics like plants, sidewalks, benches, bike racks and lighting.

The project’s timeline was brought up during Tuesday’s regular meeting of the mayor and City Council at City Hall. Terri Socha of Bedford Street spoke during the public input portion.

“Do you have any idea for a timeline for this project?” said Socha. “Some of the business owners there don’t know how to make plans for their businesses going forward. Can you see anything happening in the next six to 12 months?”

Jeff Rhodes, city administrator, said groundbreaking may be two years out.

“I believe we’ve been covering this,” said Rhodes. “I think we are talking 2020 for the project.”

Some City Council members said they thought it might begin in 2019.

“There is a chance that it could begin in the fall of 2019,” said Rhodes. “But, I think we are really looking at sometime in 2020 in reality. It really depends upon many things happening and when that takes place.”

City officials are continuing to lay the groundwork for the renovations. The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pass a resolution to establish a project to work with a third party contractor to develop an aesthetic design plan for the Baltimore Street Project in partnership with the Downtown Development Commission and the Cumberland Economic Development Corp.

The resolution puts in place the framework for accepting funding grants and issuing a request for proposal for a firm to create a plan for the aesthetic look for the mall.

Kathy McKenney, city community development director, said no one has been hired yet to create the plans. She explained the purpose of a plan for the aesthetics.

“It’s for the design portion of the project,” said McKenney. “It’s strictly for technical assistance versus a capital improvement project. This will help to support the payment of those consultant services and their specialty.”

“It’s surface stuff,” said Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim. “It is more than just pretty stuff. It affects the flow and how people view the downtown. It is what they are going to see. I’ve said all along that the infrastructure needs underground — the wiring and water and sewer — are the most important thing. But if the lights don’t work right and it doesn’t look right when you are on the mall, it can change your view of the downtown. We want it to be an attractive place for citizens to come to.”

The city has roughly between $2 million and $2.5 million secured so far in state grant funding for the Baltimore Street Project.

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