The circular brick fountain at Locust Lane in Westminster holds dirt and a tree, not water. And the wooden benches that dot the plaza at the end of the pedestrian walkway between East Main Street and Longwell Avenue are splintered and scarred from years of skateboarders sliding their boards along the surfaces.
Still, the open space in the center of downtown is valued by shoppers, businesspeople and residents, according to Tim Bryson, owner of Locust Books on Main Street, a few doors down from Locust Lane.
"It's not exactly a town square, but its closest thing to it downtown has or is going to have," Bryson said.
Tonight, Westminster's Common Council is expected to approve a $2.8 million plan to renovate Locust Lane and build a 2 1/2 -story parking deck on Longwell Avenue.
According to plans created by McLean, Va.-based consulting engineering firm Whitney, Bailey Cox & Magnani, the city plans to spend about $300,000 to:
Increase the elevation of the Locust Lane plaza to make the handful of businesses along the pedestrian mall accessible to the disabled.
Remove several large concrete planters, and add an outdoor eating area and a small round stage.
Create a slightly elevated brick crosswalk between Carroll County Public Library's Westminster branch and Locust Lane.
Use arches and trees between the parking deck and Locust Lane to create an entryway to the shopping area.
The $2.5 million parking deck, which would be built on top of the Longwell Avenue parking lot, would add about 200 parking spaces to the lot's 125. The deck would be built on the corner of the Longwell lot closest to Locust Lane.
Construction on both projects is to begin this year.
"This is a good spot to draw people over here," said Kenneth L. Zgorski, owner of Performing Arts Connection, a dance supply shop on the Locust Lane plaza.
Between pedestrians walking to and from the library and the throngs of people who crowd the plaza during the city's annual flower and jazz festival, Zgorski said, Locust Lane gets a fair amount of foot traffic.
Still, he said, a performance stage and tables and chairs would help draw people to the area.