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City mulls Main Street Md. designation as an affiliate
November 13, 2019

City mulls Main Street Md. designation as an affiliate

Enterprising business and property owners wanted to lead this

By Richard Crumbacker

Crisfield-Somerset County Times



CRISFIELD — Pop-up shops in empty storefronts, a “ bricks and clicks” campaign to expand retail sales to an online audience, and transforming vacant lots into welcoming community space or a farmers’ market — those are just some of the ideas representatives of the Main Street Maryland program suggest Crisfield could try if it’s serious about retaining and attracting new business.


But first it must decide which commercial section to target, and whether the city becomes a full-blown Main Street Maryland community or an affiliate. For advice the City Council wants to appoint a committee of business and property owners, and enthusiastic community members.


Main Street Maryland is a comprehensive downtown revitalization program that focuses on strengthening the economic potential of traditional main street corridors.

It also commits to the preservation and rehabilitation of historic structures, and encourages supportive new construction.


Downtown Princess Anne is one of 30 Main Street communities with its own manager, while Snow Hill is an affiliate. It is entitled to state resources and technical help but not the full range of marketing and specialty services. The affiliate designation was approved by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in 2016.


“The whole city can’t be a [Main Street] district,” said Amy Seitz, director of Community Access and Partnership in the Division of Neighborhood Revitalization with DHCD. She recommends the area be a commercial core, walkable, and with engaged business and property owners.


“If there’s a strong inner core of businesses,” she said, improvements “can radiate out,” and the boundaries can be amended later.

“Throw something against the wall and see if it sticks.”


Ms. Seitz said based on the continued growth of the Arts and Entertainment district, it shows Crisfield has community interest. A Main Street district can overlap the A& E district to create a more enticing presence for economic development.

Ms. Seitz and Main Street Maryland Project Manager Christine McPherson met with the City Council and City Manager Rick Pollitt last Wednesday. The meeting was requested by the council last month, five months after it voted to form a committee to see if funding was available for a hotel- conference center.

“We need businesses,” said Councilman Jimmy Ford, and Councilman Nelson Sheppard said in particular activity in the uptown section “is almost non- existent.”


Councilwoman Barbara Ward hopes for a “ variety” of businesses, so shoppers leave Crisfield less often, while Vice President LaVerne Johnson said she understands revitalization won’t come without customers and jobs.


Jen Merritt, director of the A& E District, said in her recent report to the state it shows around 50 percent of the five pages of goals and objectives “ have been addressed in some way.” She said a request for proposals is due Nov. 22 to utilize a USDA marketing grant of $52,000 to survey businesses, create a marketing plan and build a website, phone app plus produce materials to promote them.


Next spring students from the University of Maryland College Park will visit and sketch out design plans to show what Main Street could look like visually.


Along those lines Ms. McPherson said “ bricks and clicks” builds an online presence for brick and mortar shops as a way to expand their customer base in the virtual world. She said that was done in Bel Air, where she was a Main Street manager “Main Street is no panacea, and A& E is no panacea,” said Ms. Seitz, but she urged business and property owners to be involved. She suggested a committee form consisting of up to 15 people to include representatives from major employers, economic development and the city.


City Manager Pollitt said the conversation will continue. “Crawl before you walk,” he said and consider Main Street affiliate status. Absent from meeting were Councilwoman Gail Lankford and Mayor Barry Dize. 

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