Ellicott City flooding

A 2012 study with a bulky title — Sustainable Community Action Plan for Historic Downtown Ellicott City — took a snapshot of the area's strengths and weaknesses that have become evermore pronounced in the 100 days since floodwaters decimated parts of Main Street.

The area "fosters a unique 'sense of place' and authentic, historic character," the report noted. At the same time, liabilities remain: The downtown, in a valley, is chronically flood-prone. There is scant open space and few public gathering spots. Parking is limited, pedestrian access can be challenging and narrow streets aren't bike-friendly.


After the July 30 flooding, more than half of the damaged businesses remain shuttered and some owners are looking anxiously to the holiday season as one barometer for the future of the town's retail base.

100 days after flood, Ellicott City businesses face a new normal

100 days after a devastating flood, Main Street Ellicott City business are eyeing a long return to normalcy as holiday shopping season comes into full swing, new faces come in and landmarks leaves.

There is little doubt of the community spirit and resolve to remain "EC Strong." Yet altruism is not a business model and questions persist: How should Ellicott City evolve? What is its business base? How is it perceived and marketed? What role will the county and state governments play in assisting businesses?

An Ellicott City recovery and restoration plan deserves the same kind of attention that the County Council has focused on Columbia in recent months, including a discussion of how tax dollars can be deployed as a catalyst for sustaining the historic area. Deploying state-of-the-art flood-control technology must be in the dialogue, followed by ways to add parks and provide better access to the adjacent Patapsco River Valley and state park, which the 2012 study called "an underutilized amenity."

The value of shops and restaurants can't be marginalized and an economic development blueprint for a more diverse business base is required. As reported in this week's cover story, an organic rebranding of the historic downtown already appears to be underway.

The time to put ideas to paper, make decisions and get commitments from the stakeholders, is here. The uptick of enthusiasm for the historic area can't lose steam.