CUMBERLAND — New design plans for the downtown mall, featuring a street with 21 parallel parking spaces, were on display at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The plans depict the addition of a one-way street from Mechanic Street through the length of the mall to George Street. If the plans come to fruition, it will mark the return of Baltimore Street through the downtown as it was before being bricked over in 1977 to create the pedestrian mall.
The new street will allow for vehicular and bicycle traffic.
A design committee spent the last few months developing the plans. Debate included angled versus parallel parking; the final design opted for parallel parking because it left more space for sidewalks and outdoor dining.
Dave Love serves on the Downtown Development Commission.
“It (the design) works the best for all involved,” said Love. “It’s the least obstructive design of all of them. It’s the best design they’ve come up with.”
Motorists using the new street will enter from Mechanic Street and travel east to George Street. The design features 21 parallel parking spaces. The western section between Mechanic and Liberty streets will feature two pockets — of five parking spaces each — on the left side in front of CBIZ and the Cumberland Arms.
The center section between Liberty and Centre streets will feature one pocket of two parking spaces on the right side in front of BB&T Bank. The final stretch from Centre Street to George Street will feature two pockets of parking spaces on the right side with three spaces in front of Allegany Pawn and six spaces in front of CVS Pharmacy and First Peoples Community Federal Credit Union.
Councilman Rock Cioni said the designs were carefully considered.
“I know each person has invested a lot in the discussions and I’m told every viewpoint was heard,” said Cioni. “The type of parking was discussed a lot to (make) maximizing the dining space a priority. There was a lot of dedication to try to please everyone.”
Mikayla Dodge, downtown mall manager, also likes the design.
“It’s a good design,” said Dodge. “Because there is a street doesn’t mean the events held in the downtown are not going to happen. Holding events … it’s as simple as closing a street off. People have asked if you will do away with the tree lighting and things. We will not do away with those events. The New Years Eve ball drop, the Farmers Market, tree lighting … we will still have the events.”
City officials began a process to develop plans for adding a street through the downtown pedestrian mall in 2016. With aging utility lines needing replaced beneath the pedestrian mall, officials were able to secure a $500,000 state grant to do the work. However, the grant — backed by the State Highway Administration Transportation Alternatives Program — requires street construction.
Several stakeholders in the downtown also desired reopening the mall to vehicular traffic in hopes it will stimulate business downtown.
Officials say there is a small chance work could begin this summer on the project, but the renovations may have to be undertaken in 2019.