CUMBERLAND — Officials with the Cumberland Economic Development Corp. gave an update Monday on renovations proposed from the downtown pedestrian mall south through the Maryland Avenue corridor.
The CEDC board held its regular monthly meeting in the library board room at Allegany College of Maryland. Paul Kelly, CEDC executive director, was host.
The CEDC is working on plans to revitalize Cumberland, including connecting its prime attractions — like the bike trails, Canal Place and the pedestrian mall — to the central transportation points in the city.
Proposed ideas include a 48-room boutique hotel on the downtown mall as part of a larger plan — estimated to cost between $5 million and $7.4 million — to renovate the pedestrian mall by reinstalling Baltimore Street through the mall permitting the return of vehicular traffic.
Kelly said the CEDC has received a $500,000 grant from the governor’s office to acquire and repurpose the former M&T Bank building at 166 Baltimore St. Once converted to a boutique hotel, the location would also become a training facility for ACM hospitality students.
“That $500,000, as we sit here now, requires a $500,000 match (contribution) from either the CEDC, city or Allegany County,” said Kelly. “Because that money will be used for the M&T project, or assumed boutique hotel, we expressed interest in having the state waive the match.”
Kelly said the city is already making an investment in the project, and he hopes the state will take that into consideration.
“So far, they seem amenable to that,” said Kelly. “I think we are 90 days away from announcing whether we do, or do not, have a contract for the CEDC to acquire the premises.”
Kelly also gave an update on the Maryland Avenue Redevelopment Project, extending from the Rolling Mill neighborhood beside Interstate 68 to the Martin’s Food plaza, to Lamont Street. Officials said plans at the site could be expanded to include areas around the Queen City Pavement by possibly adding a bus station at the site.
“The active goal is to connect, to urbanize the core of the downtown,” said Kelly. “You will have Canal Place, bike trails, possibly adding a refurbished bus location. You want to connect all the points of transportation with the residential and commercial.
“Baltimore Street is no different. You have to be sure you are not adding competing businesses. But the key is connecting these things. There is this concept of walkability. It’s a school of thought that the health of your population is (improved) if they can walk.”
Study and analysis
The CEDC is trying to secure funding for two studies at the location: an urban design planning study and a housing analysis. The studies cost $100,000 each. Officials are currently working with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Appalachian Regional Commission to secure the funding.
“Developers will ask if you have an urban design plan for the area,” said Kelly. “Is this street going to here? Is this alley going to be here? Is there area for housing? They want to know the plan.”
The housing analysis will not be confined to the City Center, it would look at the broader Cumberland area. Mayor Ray Morriss supports the idea of a housing study.
“It is telling us what the right type of housing is that we need for our city,” said Morriss. “Sometimes you look at housing and think it is rather basic, but it really tells us what housing is needed. You use the study as a marketing tool for developers. Here is something concrete we have to show you what we believe is necessary.”
Brandon Butler, Allegany County administrator, said studies play a key role in financing.
“You hear people say, ‘oh, it’s another study,'” said Butler. “First of all, our funders like studies. Folks down state and federal agencies, when we’re going for grants, to say this is in line with a study we’ve done, it makes the project and funding become much more viable.”