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Thurmont moves forward with state's downtown revitalization program

Chris Patterson

(10/21/04) Thurmont's town leaders have taken the first step to apply for a special state program that would revitalize downtown businesses.

At Tuesday's town meeting, commissioners agreed to ask consultant Chris Jakubiak, with Jakubiak and Associates of Annapolis, to send documents to the town to begin a contractual arrangement his firm to help the town apply for the Main Street Maryland program.

The program is designed to help revitalize downtown areas. Working through the Department of Housing and Community Development's program, a town's downtown business district can benefit from design changes and a strong marketing effort to promote downtown businesses.

Frederick city, Brunswick and Mount Airy are three Frederick County communities that were accepted into and currently participate in the Main Street Maryland program.

Jakubiak said Thurmont has a leg up on getting approved for the program because of its Economic Development Committee, to which Commissioner Bill Blakeslee is the liaison.

That committee has been quite active for more than a year in working to reenergize the town's business community and downtown area.

The cornerstone of the Main Street program is employing a full-time Main Street manager focused solely on bringing more businesses and visitors to the downtown area.

The Main Street program takes a four-point approach to tackling the problem of downtown renewal, with focus on the areas of organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring.

Main Street Maryland provides services to towns including volunteer training, manager orientation and training, on-site visits, on-site design assistance and education about state and federal programs.

The program also provides training to businesses on topics such as planning and ordinance review, staff and volunteer training and development, economic development, building, landscape and district design, real estate development, tourism, marketing and market analysis.

The state contracts with the Main Street Center (run by the National Trust for Historic Preservation) to provide these services.

Jakubiak's company recently had success helping Mount Airy earn Main Street designation on its first try.

Thurmont board members acknowledged using Jakubiak's firm to help prepare the application would cost money, but said the cost was reasonable. Commissioners did not disclose the fees to the public.

Another cost would be the commitment to pay a full-time program manager for at least three years.

Jakubiak said the town should consider allocating $45,000 per year to pay the manager's salary and benefits, beginning in the 2005 budget.

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