Proposed staircase

A rendering provided by the county shows a staircase connecting Lot E, behind Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. on Main Street, and the circuit court house. (February 27, 2014)

Downtown Ellicott City will soon see more pedestrian, parking and stormwater improvements as the county kicks off a series of new public works projects next month, County Executive Ken Ulman announced Wednesday. 

The county plans to connect Ellicott City's downtown shops and restaurants with the circuit court house by way of a staircase that will work its way up a hill leading away from Main Street. 

Workers will build a retaining wall containing a specially designed staircase adjacent to parking lot E, which is located behind Ellicott Mills Brewing Co. on Main Street, county officials said. The court house's parking lot is open for visitors to the historic district to use on evenings and weekends, and for special events. 

At the edge of Lot E, the county plans to build a new crosswalk across Main Street linking Lot E to businesses across the street. 

“By better connecting the court house area and Main Street, we will open up new areas and make this historic community more walkable and more functional,” Ulman said in a statement. “This attractive staircase and better signs will direct parkers and pedestrians to convenient areas nearby they may not have thought about using.”

 Lot E's surface will also be reconstructed to incorporate stormwater-capturing bioretention areas and to plant native trees and shrubs, officials said. 

The retaining wall, staircase and lot resurfacing will cost $1.5 million, county officials said.

The project comes a few months after Howard County planning officials held a series of three workshops designed to give Ellicott City residents an opportunity to offer input on improvements they would like to see to the historic district. Workshop attendees cited pedestrian safety, parking and stormwater management as major concerns. 

County officials said they are looking at the feasibility of adding extra crosswalks along Main Street. 

Other projects slated to begin soon in downtown Ellicott City include repairs to a stone wall in parking lot C that collapsed in 2011 after a flood caused by Tropical Storm Lee. Officials said the repairs were expected to begin in April.

And plans are in motion for improvements to Ellicott City's streetscape, such as the addition of benches, new recycling and trash containers, planters, landscaping, wayfinding signs and bike racks, officials said. The State of Maryland Community Legacy program is providing $100,000 to fund the streetscape improvements, which will also include sidewalk repairs to allow ADA access and add curb cuts.