CUMBERLAND — The mayor and City Council approved a design concept Tuesday for the addition of a street through the downtown pedestrian mall.
The officials voted unanimously to accept the design at Tuesday’s regular council meeting at City Hall.
The proposed project includes replacing aging underground utility lines and adding broadband fiber optics. Estimated at $5.5 million, if the project comes to fruition, it will mark the return of Baltimore Street to the downtown for the first time since the mall was bricked-over in 1977.
The chosen design — called concept No. 4 — features 21 staggered parallel parking spaces along a one-way street running west to east from Mechanic Street to George Street. Created by a design committee, the plans show the new street and parking spaces only and did not include any additional features.
Paul Kelly, executive director of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., said the next step will be detailed architectural drawings.
“Concept No. 4 will now be given to the EADS Group (Cumberland architects) to incorporate at an engineering level so they can lay out the footprint of the road where things will be at,” said Kelly. “Now what we need to get into is the aesthetics: how it will look and how to make it functional.
“You need to see where you’re going to put park benches and lighting and trees. It sounds easy, but I’m learning that it is not. Small plants are great, but they are doing nothing when people want shade. So you have a lot to think about. You have to have balance.”
The city has been awarded $2 million from the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program.
“In addition, we were given $250,000 from ARC (the Appalachian Regional Commission) for engineering work,” said Kelly. “The CEDC wants to have it changed to use it for construction. And then we’ve asked them (ARC) for additional money to get another $550,000 to $600,000 to put on top that. The gets us moving pretty good at that point.”
The city will need to secure additional funding in the coming months to cover the total estimated cost of $5.5 million.
Kelly said the state TAP money is for the above grade changes and the ARC funds can be used for either above or below ground work.
Kelly wants to incorporate ideas from the Shade Tree Commission, Historic Planning Commission and the Cochrane (urban planning) Group into the final design.
“What we want to do is really tie Canal Place, Baltimore Street and Roses Plaza all together … the functionality, the aesthetics and bicycle traffic,” said Kelly. “We want to obtain help to tie together the way it all should look, the colors used and the historic context.”
The mall design will not have a designated bike lane but will instead allow vehicles and bicycles to share Baltimore Street.
City Councilman Eugene Frazier had been concerned about changes that could negatively impact the businesses downtown. Frazier wanted to make sure restaurants maintained the space needed for outdoor dining.
“I’m OK with the design that was chosen,” said Frazier. “You have do something to to entice people to come downtown. My biggest thing is not harming the existing businesses. I think they will have about 15 feet (of sidewalk space) as I understand. The parallel parking will be on the opposite side of the street for City Lights (American Grill) and the Baltimore Street Grill.”
Kelly said he does not anticipate any construction this year.
“The next significant thing you will see will be the submission of 70 percent drawings from the EADS Group for their (City Council) approval,” said Kelly. “That is the next benchmark you’ll see. Now they have the concept. Currently, they are mapping the utilities and widths of the buildings.”