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Revitalizing Main Streets

James Rada, Jr.
Thurmont Dispatch

(2/7) Many people will tell you Mayberry doesn’t exist. Quaint towns with thriving Main Streets are a thing of the past that only exist in old movies and TV shows … or in Maryland Main Street Communities like Thurmont, Frederick and Taneytown.

“Being a Main Street Community has brought us new stores and shops,” said Nancy McCormick, Taneytown economic development director.

Maryland Main Street is a revitalization program created in 1998 by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. The program helps improve the economy, image and appearance of Maryland’s traditional downtown business districts.

“Main Street is an avenue to increase grants and visibility for the whole town of Thurmont,” said Vickie Grinder, Thurmont’s Main Street manager.

According to the Maryland DHCD, the Maryland Main Street program, which now includes 18 communities, has led to $74 million in investment in those communities and created 400 new businesses and 1,800 new jobs.

Grinder said that the process of becoming a Maryland Main Street Community in 2005 was only the first step. The designation opened doors for the town, but it also showed other doors that the town needed to get through for additional opportunities.

“What it’s done for us is gotten more people to invest in their properties and upgrade them,” McCormick said.

Grinder also points out that the revitalization affects the entire town, not just the Main Street area.

“Some grants are just for the designated Main Street, but others are for any business in town. You just have to know where to find them and that’s what being a Main Street can help you do,” Grinder said.

Since becoming a Main Street Community in 2005, Thurmont has gotten grants to help refurbish the old trolley trail, restore the Thurmont Trolley, improve building facades, get street signage, produce a brochure and purse a town marketing study.

“It’s been a slow process but we’re starting to reap the benefits,” Grinder said. “When you add it all together, you’re looking at over $200,000 it has brought to the community.”

Emmitsburg was once a part of the program, but dropped out. Now Mayor James Hoover says there is some interest in becoming part of the program again, but the state hasn’t been forthcoming with answers to questions from the town.

“The state has not added any Main Streets in 2006 or 2007 and there are no plans to add any in 2008,” said Grinder.

Hoover said he would like to get either Grinder or McCormick or both to come and speak to the town commissioners about the process of becoming a Main Street Community.

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