Westminster eyes Route 27 as gateway


The Route 27 corridor in Westminster would become an eye-catching gateway to the downtown area with inviting restaurants, stores, new office buildings and homes, under a preliminary plan developed by city planners with the help of an architectural firm.

The team's proposals for the road, also known as Railroad Avenue, include planning for construction to be closer to the street, similar to businesses on Main Street, lining the road with trees and adding on-street parking to stimulate retail shopping.

The ideas are included in a rough draft of a master plan for the road and for Main Street.

The preliminary plan was developed during a four-day workshop last week in Westminster.

Having received a $75,000 state grant, the city teamed up with the Baltimore architectural firm Design Collective and the Maryland Department of Transportation to outline possible improvements to the corridor that might make downtown Westminster more inviting.

"We want to create an area where there is activity 18 hours a day," said Shawn Siders, town planner. "We want a really vibrant place where something is always going on."

Siders said that one way to improve the entrance to the area would be to develop a space such as the Conaway parking lot, near Main Street and Route 27, which he sees as prime property.

The corridor covers from Tuc Road to south of Green Street and extends east to Longwell Avenue and west to where Pennsylvania Avenue splits with West Main Street.

Other ideas for downtown that came up during the sessions, which were open to the public, included adding retail clothing stores along Main Street (in part to attract more college students down the hill from McDaniel College), building or rehabilitating more housing, expanding the idea of a town square (already begun with the Locust Lane pedestrian mall renovation plans) and filling in "gap teeth" (empty retail and office space) on Main Street.

The sessions are the first step in presenting a master plan to the mayor and Common Council this fall.

The process will take a couple of months, said Clarence Eng, lead planner from the Design Collective, whose group will take the lead in producing specific recommendations.

The earliest the group would present a plan to the city would be in November.

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