A coalition of Reisterstown business owners, elected officials and residents met at Trinity Lutheran Church March 7 to hear each others' ideas for a revitalized Main Street.
Reisterstown Main Street, the organization formed to prepare Reisterstown for application to the Main Street Maryland program, held a kickoff meeting to announce its intentions and listen to ideas to improve the area.
Main Street Maryland
The Main Street Maryland program provides economic, planning and marketing support to towns with historic Main Streets. Towns with official Main Street Maryland designations have special access to monetary grants that otherwise would not be available. Reisterstown Main Street has been meeting Monday mornings at Reter's Crabhouse since November. The group has been divided into five committees, each focusing on a particular aspect of the Main Street Maryland program - Design, Promotion, Organization, Economic Restructuring and Clean, Safe and Green.
Applications to the program are currently closed with no definite start date. Mary Molinaro, chairwoman of the Reisterstown Main Street organization committee, said the program generally opens to new applicants when they feel they can handle the workload. She said she is hopeful Reisterstown will have a chance to apply in September or October.
Following an introduction by promotion chairman Calvin Reter, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz described the history behind Reisterstown's involvement with the Main Street Maryland application process.
Kamenetz said the process began in 2009, while he was still a county councilman. That year, he helped pass a resolution to assist Reisterstown with renovation efforts.
"I apologize that it's taken all of this time," Kamenetz said. "I learned that you can make those requests as a councilman and make those resolutions, but it's only when you become county executive can you really direct and make things happen."
Council members Vicki Almond and Todd Huff each spoke briefly on their hopes for Reisterstown's future. Almond said she can feel a real sense of excitement in the air on Main Street.
Amy Seitz, state Main Street coordinator, described the effects the Main Street Maryland program has had on the 26 other Main Street-designated towns in Maryland. She said in the past year, the Main Street towns have seen a combined $9.5 million in public and private investment, 174 new businesses and 740 new jobs.
"Main Street can help provide its own momentum and its own structure of work. You see value in what you have, or what you're doing and others see value in that too," Seitz said. "It does kind of raise the playing field of everybody involved."
Seitz then introduced the heads of each committee, who gave a brief overview of the work they do and their plans for the future. Clean, Safe and Green had the most definite plans at this early point. They said they have been working with Captain McElwee of the Franklin Precinct to establish a Citizens on Patrol program and get a bicycle officer to ride along Main Street.
Following the presentation by Seitz, temporary town manager Amy Mantay had everyone in attendance gather around one of 10 Reisterstown maps, mark off their businesses or homes and discuss with the other people in their group what changes they would like to see in the Main Street area.
By far, the largest complaint about Reisterstown was the lack of easily accessible parking. Each group mentioned parking as one of its chief concerns. Ideas for improving the parking situation included more visible signage, using private lots as public parking and the creation of paid parking structures or meters.
Jonathan Schwartz, reporting for his table, said Reisterstown lacked a venue for large-scale events.
"The Chamber just had their big installation with 250 to 300 people, and there wasn't a place here to have it. They had to have it at the DoubleTree Pikesville," Schwartz said. "Wouldn't it be great if we could keep that kind of event in Reisterstown."
Suggested improvements included the creation of a visitors center in one of the historic buildings, the building of a pedestrian clock, a community tree lighting for the holidays and establishing a definable center of town.
Moving the Reisterstown Festival back to Franklin Middle School was a contentious proposal. When Schwartz mentioned the possibility of returning the festival to its original grounds, following its move to Hannah More Park, many in the room erupted into applause. This triggered a rebuttal from the Reisterstown Festival Committee members, who said the school grounds are not zoned for many of the activities that define the festival, including the sale of alcohol and lighting of fireworks. Parking, again, was an issue.
The Future of Reisterstown Main Street
Molinaro said, in total, 87 people attended the kickoff, bringing the total number of people who have shown an interest in the project to 133. Molinaro said she is pleased with the breakdown of business owners and private citizens getting involved.
Of the 133, 56 are business owners or organization members, 19 are property owners and 35 are community members. Molinaro said following the kickoff, Main Street Reisterstown had five people join the committees.
Up next for Reisterstown Main Street is a two-day training session provided by Main Street Maryland March 26 and 27. At the training, they will hear advice for how best to prepare each of the committees for the application process.