Consultant collects visions for downtown Westminster's future


By 2000, downtown Westminster could have a high-rise apartment condominium that would lure middle- and upper-middle-income people to live in the heart of town.

That is part of City Council President Kenneth A. Yowan's vision of what the city center might become. "I think it would be a tremendous asset for downtown to have people there who are spending money," he said.

Ideas, brainstorms and flights of possibility about Westminster's future are being collected by HyettPalma Inc., a Virginia-based consultant retained to analyze the central area and develop a marketing strategy.

The strategy is meant to help the Greater Westminster Development Corp., a nonprofit local business association, attract new business and boost existing business downtown.

The ideas are half of an analysis that also relies on demographics and economic data.

"The statistics tell us what downtown's economic opportunities are. The preference data tell us what the people there prefer," said Dolores Palma, president of HyettPalma.

In Mr. Yowan's vision, the center of Westminster would have DTC more restaurants, stores open later and a shuttle service that would, for example, enable people who don't drive to attend Theatre on the Hill performances at Western Maryland College.

Other ideas introduced by residents at a community vision session included varied shops, cafes and historic buildings; places for people to go after shows; art galleries; and a wider variety of restaurants.

Participants at the session suggested adding office space, emphasizing city history and delineating the historic district, an area without physical boundaries.

City government's role in the process is limited, Planning and Public Works Director Thomas B. Beyard said. Government can provide adequate roads and bridges, water and sewer service, and "keep the city safe and clean," he said.

But government cannot dictate, for example, whether stores stay open late.

Part of HyettPalma's job is to outline a logical process for downtown development, Mr. Beyard said.

"Sometimes studies end up on the shelf and nothing gets done. I think that would be a tragedy in this case," he said.

Ms. Palma said she will be ready to present her findings and recommendations Nov. 1.

The consultant's services were financed through a state grant ,, and matching local money.

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