Spotlight on Smart Growth: Main Streets in Frederick County

07/13/2021
By Ruby Nwaebube

One of the most popular community engagement activities in Smart Growth is the Main Street Program. In 1998, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development created a comprehensive downtown revitalization program called Main Street Maryland. For more than 20 years, this program has improved the economy, appearance, and image of Maryland’s downtown districts.

This program is set up as a tax-exempt nonprofit with a full-time manager and a volunteer board of directors. Each main street receives some funding from the city; however, the rest of the funds are made through events and donations. There are 33 designated main streets across the state. Each main street site reveals its unique heritage, historic architecture, and arts and culture. Out of the thirty-three main streets, there are five located in Frederick County. Smart Growth Maryland is fortunate to have a coalition of local and state organizations representing approximately 16,000 members and supporters in Frederick County. For the past two years,

Smarter Growth Alliance for Frederick County (SGAFC) has advocated for an even greater set of policies and programs that make preservation work possible.

SGAFC is carrying on the legacy of Main Streets’ mission by pursuing economic revitalization and sustainability in main streets and neighborhoods in the county. Let’s take a look at the Main Streets in Frederick County that are making a difference in the state:

City of Frederick

Historic Frederick, Maryland.

Kemp Hall (brick building on corner) where Maryland Legislature met in Frederick in 1861.

Located less than one hour from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Gettysburg, the city of Frederick, is surrounded by many natural resources that allow a vibrant Main Street to flourish in the community. Established in 2001, the Main Street Program in Frederick has resulted in:

These results can be linked to the annual Business Performance Survey from the Downtown Frederick Partnership. Each year, the survey assesses the downtown economy, health, and wellbeing of the Downtown Frederick business community and the efficacy of the program. The survey advises the action planning process by identifying new projects and amend current work program activities each year. Through the survey results, it shapes how Downtown Fredrick continues to revitalize, strengthen, and renew a sense of identity in the community.

middletown-maryland-vintage-postcard

Middletown

In 2009, Middletown became a designated Main Street Community. Located along Maryland’s Historic National Road, Middletown Main Street holds heritage walking tours that showcase how the city played a role in American History. Since the Main Street designation, growth is part of Middletown’s story. Yet, its historic charm has kept them rooted during these unprecedented times.  Last month, The Frederick County Office of Economic Development (OED) chose Middletown for the 2021 Maryland Economic Development Association’s (MEDA) recognition program for renovation work in Main Street. Older buildings are redeveloped and new companies are choosing to be located in Main Street. Some projects included the Wren’s Nest building, located on Main Street, which converted the first floor into a new permanent farmers market. As for the second floor, it was converted into shared office space. There are plans for a garden center to be located in the back of the building. In addition, two renovated small historic buildings along Main Street to house a new Welcome Center and the Main Street office. With a mission to see Downtown thrive, Middletown’s investment in their Main Street emphasizes the importance of integrating historic preservation as an economic driver for communities.

View of Brunswick, Maryland.

View of Brunswick, Maryland.

Brunswick

Located approximately 60 minutes from Washington D.C. and Baltimore, sits the Victorian Railroad town of Brunswick. Known for its rich transportation heritage, Brunswick became a designated Main Street in 2004. For the past seventeen years, Brunswick has created a place for individuals to come together to celebrate their heritage and engage with downtown small businesses. As you explore Main Street Brunswick, it develops a sense of discovery of its railroad culture, canal history, and natural resources. By preserving these historic assets, Downtown Brunswick was able to achieve these results for their 2019 annual report:

With these resources, Brunswick Main Street was awarded a grant for $892.38 from the C&O Canal Endowment Fund to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the C&O Canal National Historical Park this year. This funding will open more preservation and smart growth incentives for a livable, sustainable, and equitable Brunswick.

Thurmont

Thurmont is a small town located north of Maryland and approximately ten miles from the Pennsylvania border. Located along the Route 15 corridor, Thurmont has maintained its small-town charm with a growing population. Designated as a Main Street in 2011, Thurmont’s motto is “The gateway to the mountains” due to retaining outdoor roots. With Thurmont Main Street, they look at methods to preserve their historic downtown and year-round outdoor activities. With these objectives, Thurmont Main Streets aims to increase its pedestrian traffic, tourism, and economic growth. Main Streets improves the physical, psychological, health, and public safety aspects of a community. Utilizing redevelopment buildings increases foot traffic and helps support the local economy. Additionally, more community interaction in these buildings reduces crime and increases social identity. For the last five years, Thurmont has been listed as the Top 10 Safest Cities, Top 10 Places to Live In Maryland, Top 15 Small Towns to Visit in Maryland. Thurmont Main Street has played a role in the city’s accolades due to giving individuals opportunities to escape and appreciate the natural beauty and resilience of the community.

New Market, MD.

New Market, MD.

New Market

With a population under 2,000 people, New Market was named the fifth Main Street Maryland Community in Frederick County in 2018. Before this designation, New Market was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. New Market is known for its antiques, which have shaped the narrative of their Main Street.

All five Main Streets in Frederick County are part of an Art of the Main project. Through the craft and influence of Main Street, Parran Collery designed unique sculptures for each town to express her love and appreciation for Fredrick County. Public art humanizes the built environment and provides an opportunity for a community to express themselves. Through unique design elements of the artwork, it provides cultural, social, and economic value for the city. Each sculpture will reside in its designated Main Street for a year. For the New Market sculpture, Collery incorporates a butterfly to illustrate hope, preservation, and transformation in the community.

Ruby Nwaebube · Advocacy Associate

Ruby works to expand the advocacy capacity of the organization as well as researching innovative policy solutions to smart growth and preservation challenges at the local, state, and federal level. Ruby is a graduate of the University of Virginia and prior to joining the Preservation Maryland team enjoyed a diverse range of experiences from documenting African-American historical sites to developing augmented reality and educational simulation games.

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