Howard County government announced this week the official acquisition of the last of the 10 buildings on lower Main Street in Ellicott City it had planned to purchase as part of the county’s flood mitigation plan.
The Phoenix Emporium, at 8049 Main St., is the final building to be purchased by the county, nearly a year after County Executive Calvin Ball announced his Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan.
“These are tough times for all our small businesses, and we will continue to work with all the residents and business owners through our Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan as we make sure Ellicott City is protected and preserved,” Ball said in a statement.
The county did not say how much it paid for the property.
Longtime Phoenix Emporium owner Mark Hemmis recently merged his business with the Ellicott Mills Brewing Company, moving to its location at 8308 Main St. It is now the Phoenix Upper Main.
In order to complete the demolition and removal process of the 10 buildings, the county needs to complete the federal Section 106 process, which assesses concerns surrounding historic preservation, before changes can happen.
According to the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation, the other nine buildings are:
- Discoveries, 8055 Main St., acquired on Oct. 9 for $942,500
- Bean Hallow, 8059 Main St., acquired on May 30 for $790,000
- Portalli’s, 8085 Main St., acquired on April 12, 2019, for $1.4 million
- Shoemaker Country, 8095 Main St., acquired on April 10, 2019, for $1.55 million
- Caplan’s Department Store, 8125 Main St., acquired on April 10, 2019, for $1.21 million
- Tea on the Tiber, 8081 Main St., acquired on March 15, 2019, for $600,000
- 8109 and 8113 Main St., which included Joan Eve Classics & Collectibles and residences, acquired together on Feb. 25, 2019, for $1.05 million
- Great Panes Art Glass Studio, 8069 Main St., acquired on Feb. 13, 2019, for $985,000
The next step in the process is a public hearing the county planned to host this spring. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ball said the county is exploring options to host the hearing virtually.
Earlier this month, Ball released his capital budget proposal, which sectioned off $20.2 million in fiscal 2021 for historic Ellicott City and Valley Mede, an Ellicott City development hit hard by the catastrophic 2016 and 2018 floods. Ball said those funds would include upgrading and replacing storm drains and design of large flood-mitigation facilities identified in the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan.
Ball did not specify which part of the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan would be funded by that money.
As part of the fiscal 2021 state budget, the Maryland General Assembly approved $8.25 million for the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan, leaving $11.95 million of Ball’s proposal to be paid for by the county.
“The Main Street business owners and residents of Ellicott City are full of passion and determination,” said state Sen. Katie Fry Hester, who secured the funding along with Del. Courtney Watson. “It was a true team effort with state and local partners to ensure we protect the lives and livelihoods of these resilient people.”
In May, when Ball first announced the flood mitigation plan, he said it could cost as much as $140 million and include updates such as a 1,600-foot tunnel near Main Street to divert stormwater.
In the beginning of March this year, before county government largely shut down due to the coronavirus, the Army Corps of Engineers presented its evaluation of the Safe and Sound Plan at a public meeting.
“I can’t speak to how quickly they’re going to move forward; that’s going to be on their end,” said Andy Layman, project manager for the study from the Army Corps. “Our evaluation looked at how each of those measures compared to each other ... but we weren’t tasked and we didn’t look specifically at how quickly the county can move forward.”
As part of the county’s plan, Ball plans to implement eight projects, including the north tunnel, terraced floodplain, and west end floodplain and conveyance. All eight measures, as well as six others, were evaluated by the Army Corps of Engineers. Among the eight measures the county has selected to implement, four were in the top tier of recommendations by the Army Corps.
“We still have an aggressive plan for trying to implement, but again that depends upon everything falling into place,” Ball said at the March 9 meeting.
Ball has said he wants the Ellicott City Safe and Sound Plan implemented by 2025, but as of now there is no clear timeline.