Main Street, Ellicott City in March when some businesses had already re-opened and where some new businesses have moved in nearly one year after severe flooding.
Main Street, Ellicott City in March when some businesses had already re-opened and where some new businesses have moved in nearly one year after severe flooding. (Jeffrey F. Bill / Baltimore Sun Media)

On a steamy summer morning last month, I helped cut the ribbon on Vintage Chic, a new shop on Ellicott City’s historic Main Street. The excitement of a grand opening has been a welcome and familiar sight for me since taking office in December. In that time, more than a dozen new boutiques, restaurants and other retail shops have opened. Many existing businesses have rebuilt and reopened since May 2018 when we suffered the second of two devastating floods in just 22 months.

I continue to be inspired by those who share my commitment to building a resilient Ellicott City that will be an example to future generations. As the town prepares to celebrate its 250th birthday, our community is united in preserving Ellicott City’s character for the next 250 years.

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Every day, in ways both big and small, we can see progress. This week, we received an $8.1 million grant to rebuild the damaged portion of New Cut Road. Through our holistic revitalization plan, “Ellicott City Safe and Sound,” we have already removed more than 16,000 pounds of debris from our county’s waterways to prevent future flooding. Yellow “high ground access point” signs were recently installed throughout the town to provide guidance out of the floodplain. An audible alert system has been installed to warn those outside when a flash flood warning is issued. For even more on what we’re doing, I encourage you to visit our website at ECSafeandSound.org.

Some steps forward cannot be seen yet, but are guiding us toward a more sustainable future for Ellicott City. When I took office, the county planned to demolish 10 buildings at the bottom of Main Street and had a mitigation plan that left up to 6 feet of water on the street in the event of a 100-year storm. Today, the county owns eight of those 10 buildings, but under our new plan, six will be preserved and cleanup work is already underway inside them. Additionally, our plan reduces those flood water scenarios on Main Street to less than 1 foot.

Our plan for Ellicott City is admittedly ambitious, but so is the spirit of the town. We aren’t rebuilding because it is easy, we are putting in the work now to secure our future for centuries to come. This includes many steps and requires unity and collaboration with several public and private entities. Conversations with CSX are underway, a necessary step to allow the county to work underneath the railroad at the bottom of Main Street. Several requests for proposals are in development, negotiations are ongoing with property owners for the acquisition of needed property and capital projects are advancing through the design stage.

As we keep improving, I encourage you to support Ellicott City’s shops and restaurants. Come visit this summer to check out one of our new businesses or visit an old favorite. Ellicott City is a thriving small town whose charm will only continue to grow.

But don’t take my word for it, come see for yourself.

Calvin Ball, Ellicott City

The writer, a Democrat, is county executive of Howard County.

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