Blueprint for downtown Hampstead discussed


They came, they griped and they pitched ideas for solutions.

Now, after that four-hour brainstorming session Sunday, Hampstead officials and business people should have a clear idea of how town residents would like them to revitalize Main Street.

"Not only did they lay out the blueprint out, but they had very specific suggestions about how to get the money to get things done, down to identifying the different entities that should take responsibility for implementation," said Howard S. Kohn, president of the Chesapeake Group Inc.

The Baltimore-based economic development consulting company, which has spent the past year helping each Carroll County municipality develop plans for its downtown area, met with about 50 Hampstead residents, business owners and government officials to hear what they would like to do with Main Street.

Group members separated into three groups and aired their concerns about either aesthetics, traffic flow or how to market Hampstead, said Councilman Wayne H. Thomas, who helped organize Sunday's session. After making a presentation to the entire gathering, each group discussed solutions.

A report of the group's findings should be ready by the first week of August, Mr. Kohn said.

"I think the meeting was terrific," he said. "There were a number of very significant courses of action defined."

For example, while discussing "white elephant" buildings downtown, group members suggested that town officials try to obtain the former Hampstead Elementary School on Main Street to use as a town office, for businesses or for a combination of the two, he said.

"There are a lot of possibilities for its use," Mr. Thomas said, noting that the Hampstead's tree commission and recreation groups could share part of the space if the town moved its offices there.

The Carroll County public schools are using the building for plant operations and a library for teachers, said Carey Gaddis, school system spokeswoman. The building has not been used as a school since the new Hampstead Elementary was built in the mid-1980s.

"We house a lot of video equipment there," Ms. Gaddis said. "They have conference rooms there for teachers who need to do special things, like duplicate tapes."

Town officials have been discussing moving Town Hall to Main Street since returning from the Maryland Municipal League conference in Ocean City last month. Not only could the town offices use more space, but the Police Department can expand if Town Hall is moved, council members said.

In addition, Hampstead Police Chief Kenneth Russell has expressed concern at recent council meetings about the safety of town employees with the Police Department being housed in the same building.

"One of the main things in the revitalization meeting was putting the Town Hall in the center of town with plenty of parking for it and the businesses surrounding it," said Councilman Stephen A. Holland. "I'd like to see the Police Department expanding and given more room than that little cubby they have on the side of Town Hall.

"They could spread out and do their jobs more efficiently if we are able to move out and into a new building."

Other ideas for revitalizing downtown included identifying historic sites downtown and installing plaques to describe buildings' ages and former uses; burying or moving power lines on Main Street; and expanding the park near the town's war memorial, Mr. Thomas said.

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