The Frederick News-Post
Mount Airy’s leaders are to be commended for the vision and focus they have shown in moving toward a new master plan for the downtown of the historic community.
The town has spent a significant but fruitful amount of time considering the meaning of its past and thinking about how that history can guide the town into the future. Transportation was at the core of the town’s story. It was the place where the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad crossed one of the most difficult ridges in Maryland as it pushed its way west, and that crossing set the path for the town.
Last year, the town bought the original, unused railroad station and began repurposing it. Interior renovations are nearly complete, and the station’s parking lot hosts the Mount Airy Farmers Market. A Rails to Trails project, converting the former B&O rail line from the Carroll County side of town to the parking lot, is also underway.
Then, last week the Town Council took the next step, hiring the well-regarded Baltimore design company the Design Collective for $121,200. The firm will study the historic downtown clustered around Main and Center streets, and then it will lay out a vision for growing while still preserving it.
It is a charming little town with a great deal of potential. Town leaders are confident that the Design Collective will make the most of it, and they have good reason for their optimism. They interviewed four companies before settling on the contract-winner.
“They’re very cognizant of history and our specific history,” Town Administrator Monika Weierbach told News-Post reporter Samantha Hogan.
The Design Collective is well-known here is Frederick County. The group worked with the city of Frederick about 15 years ago on the southern end of the East Street corridor, from Carroll Creek to Interstate 70. The MARC train station, the East Street parking garage and the Frederick County Public Schools headquarters building were all fruits of that process.
“No one had really seen the city from that perspective before,” Richard Griffin, the city of Frederick’s director of economic development, told our reporter.
The Design Collective held workshops on the project over several days, and public comment significantly influenced the final plan, Griffin said.
That approach to community outreach is what sold the Mount Airy review committee on the firm, Weierbach said.
Of course, the hardest part of the process comes next. Mount Airy’s staff will work with the planners to develop a strategy. Then, over the next nine months, they will host workshops and community outreach events to get public comment and ideas.
Among the issues to address are the future of the Flat Iron building, parking, utilities, business growth and a connection between Center Street and Md. 27.
This is a good beginning, and the town seems to have made solid decisions thus far. It should give residents confidence going forward that the future of Mount Airy is in good hands, and the process can bring a new burst of life to the old downtown.
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