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Reisterstown named a Sustainable Community

Reisterstown was granted status as a Sustainable Community per the Sustainable Communities Act of 2010, making it possible for the area to soon see dramatic changes both to its appearance and economic standing. The aim of the program is to provide older areas the funding needed to revitalize and improve their communities to increase tourism and economic growth. The decision was made by Maryland's Smart Growth sub-cabinet, a council dedicated to increasing equitable growth and development in areas of need.

This designation, which was announced June 5, will make Reisterstown eligible for funding to improve transportation, preserve and revitalize historic communities, promote fair and equitable housing options and boost economic growth and tourism.

Glenn Barnes, president of the Reisterstown Improvement Association, said he thinks the designation will be a positive for the area.

"It's a positive for Reisterstown, which is an old, historic town that was established in 1858, and the streetscape that was started in 1997 I think it was, that was never completed is now going to resume in the next couple of months due to that funding we just got through the state of Maryland," he said. "This will re-invigorate and will make the people in town and people who visit the town see that this is an old historic town that is still going to be maintained in the future."

Being named a sustainable community also gives Reisterstown eligibility to achieve Maryland Main Street designation. the Main Street program would offer key resources and technical assistance to make necessary changes. To be given Main Street designation, a community must first be granted status as a sustainable community.

Baltimore County Department of Planning Community Planner and acting Main Street Manager Amy Mantay, who also worked on the application sent to the state, said she sees the recent designation as a move in the right direction.

"[T]he state requires that the main streets also be sustainable communities, so that's just another step in that direction," she said.

Mary Kendall, project manager for the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization, recommended Reisterstown to the Smart Growth Sub-cabinet as manager of the Sustainable Communities Program for the Department of Housing and Community Development.

"The main street program itself doesn't offer funding," she said. "It offers a great deal of technical assistance. The Maryland Main Street designation is coordinated through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, so a much larger entity."

As part of the Main Street program, historic communities would receive assistance and training in four key revitalization areas: organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

"You have to be located within a national historic district, there has to be some sort of historic significance to the community to apply," Kendall said. "The importance of the Main Street, if they get the Main Street Designation, they get connected to a national platform ... [It is a] way to coordinate the community locally to make the community more vibrant. The Main Street gives them a very specific strategy and specific approach to follow to revitalize that community."

While the sustainable designation is an "investment strategy," Kendall said being named to the Main Street Program would be "essentially a commitment to a specific revitalization approach."

Officials said they hope the designation as a Sustainable Community leads to positive change.

"Hopefully this program is going to be reaching out to both the property owner and the business owner to help them maintain properties and make the improvements that will bring more traffic to the area," Barnes said.

The changes many hope to see would revitalize the historic parts of Reisterstown and bring more tourists and business-people to the community.

"We're hoping that it's going to keep the businesses here and attract new business," Barnes said. "There's always properties in any commercial area for sale or for lease, and by seeing that improvements are being made visually, it will show business owners that we're making improvements to the town, to the community. We're hoping new business will come into the area and open up new stores, shops, etc."

Mantay said she shares the hope that the proposed developments will give Reisterstown an economic boost.

"Hopefully the program and the goals that were outlined in the application will help to strengthen things and make it a more desirable place to come visit and work and that sort of thing," she said.

To Barnes, one such necessary development would be slowing the flow of traffic.

"The people driving on Main Street during rush hour business hours, they're frustrated, they're upset because they might have been pushed off the highway," he said.

This leads them to speed through the community. Improvements to the roads, Barnes said, will make people slow their progression through Reisterstown.

"They've done the white striping on the shoulders so people now think they can park there and it's making the indication you can park ... there's a lot of people who aren't aware you can park on Main Street," he said. "In some areas there'll be a bump-out, the curbing will be bumped out into the street a little. We're just trying to slow the speed of the cars going through town ... Reisterstown is a destination not a drive-thru road. This can't be stressed enough, because we want people to come and visit ... that will happen if traffic is slowed, there'll be more likelihood for that."

For officials, the designation means that Reisterstown is not only recognized as a historic community worth preserving, but that it will be given the attention necessary to enable it to thrive.

"We're a historic town that wants to try to keep its image and were going to do everything we can to make it sustainable for all the current businesses and new businesses," Barnes said.

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