Sykesville OKs plan for Main St. $50,000 allotted to begin project to enhance downtown; Signs to draw visitors; Distinctive entrances, more parking spots are part of proposal


Sykesville has adopted an ambitious plan to revive its downtown and has budgeted $50,000 to get its Main Street Enhancement Program off the ground.

The plan calls for eye-catching signs along Route 32, distinctive entrances to town, pedestrian-friendly walkways, more downtown attractions and additional parking.

"The plan is reasonable enough that we can fund some of it immediately," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman. "It has good concepts that we can follow and implement as soon as possible."

A $16,000 consultant's study created the program that officials hope will revitalize downtown. Kann and Associates and LDR International, both urban planners, developed the plan after interviews with officials, business and community leaders, two public hearings and numerous visits to the town.

Main Street has filled its storefronts with antiques, restaurants and specialty businesses. The town has restored its train station, making it into a trendy restaurant, and it has ambitious plans to make its Patapsco River frontage another attraction.

There are no vacancies on Main Street, but Sykesville rarely draws the crowds of Ellicott City in Howard County. Maybe travelers along Route 32 do not know a town is nestled beyond the hills that hide it from the highway.

To bring people to Main Street, the consultants recommend signs that note Sykesville's railroad history to show them the way.

The plan calls for placing the stone signs at key intersections along Route 32 and inserting into them silhouettes with a railroad theme -- an engine at the entrance from Howard County and a caboose at Sandosky Road.

The road markers could be the least expensive items -- about $12,000 -- on the list of recommendations.

"The more distinctive the entrances and routes into town, the more attractive the town will be to visitors and residents," said Donald Kann, president of the Baltimore-based consulting company.

In a meeting with State Highway Administration officials today, Herman will discuss placing town signs on state property and making other highway improvements, including a left-turn lane onto South Main Street for northbound traffic.

Sean D. Davis, an architect with LDR International of Columbia, made his final report to the Town Council on Monday and delivered copies of the program, which outlines improvements to make downtown attractive to about 3,500 residents and visitors.

"We identified all the opportunities and constraints and refined the vision," said Davis. "The idea is to strengthen downtown."

Sykesville must not only make itself known to motorists, but it should create pathways to pull pedestrians downtown and make them want to return frequently.

A mix of retail, offices and residences "could keep people downtown continuously," Davis said. He suggested benches, landscaping and lighting, maybe an outdoor cafe, along the existing alley connections to three municipal parking lots.

Redevelopment should not alter the street's century-old wooden storefronts, but it should trade on a history entwined with the Patapsco River and the railroad, Davis said.

Renovations to the Town House, which sits atop a hill and dominates the view of Main Street, are critical to the revitalization. The town has applied to the state for a $35,000 historic trust grant, which, if approved, could mean a new roof for the turn-of-the-century home that is now City Hall.

Davis encouraged town officials to continue working with JTC Howard County to create a park along the riverfront, which defines the southern entrance to Sykesville. The town has offered to maintain the grounds for its neighboring county.

Along the river, several existing buildings, including a few historic structures, should be renovated for community and recreational uses, the plan says.

Howard County, which has begun a design study of the land and buildings, has rejected several town attempts to annex the 7-acre property along the Patapsco. But the county has offered to cooperate with the town as much as possible on the improvements.

Pub Date: 6/10/98

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