This image taken from video depicts Cumberland’s downtown mall once the space is renovated. The designer of the Baltimore Street Redevelopment Project unveiled the look of the future mall in a video.
CUMBERLAND — The designer for the downtown mall said Tuesday morning the streetscape will be transformed into a “fun and inviting space.”
William Cochran explained the Baltimore Street Redevelopment Project during a livestream that introduced drawings depicting the mall once the space is renovated.
Work is expected to begin in the fall on the $9.7 million below- and above-ground project, which will include reinstalling Baltimore Street to one lane of traffic.
In addition to Cochran, Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and Matt Miller, executive director of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., also appeared in the livestream.
Miller said nearly $9.2 million has been secured in state and federal grants for the project and he expects more to come.
“We will continue to actively seek new funding sources and this project will become a reality in our future,” he said.
The new mall will utilize a curbless design and feature a 12-foot lane for vehicles and bicycles. New trees, light poles and flower beds will be installed with art sculptures and frescoes added.
“This effort is a giant first step in revitalizing one of our city’s most historic assets,” said Morriss. “This project has not lost momentum and is being carefully planned to exceed expectations. It will reposition us for future growth, reinvestment and opportunity.”
Cochran also answered what he referred to as “frequently asked questions,” like “Will the traffic make the street less enjoyable?”
“I think this street will be far more pedestrian friendly when this new downtown is built than it is now,” he said. “A single, very narrow lane of traffic is being introduced with cars having to drive very slowly. It is designed to intimidate drivers a little bit so they have to pay attention to other people and they have to proceed carefully, which is exactly as it should be.
“It will have 23-foot wide sidewalks on each side of a 12-foot wide street; you can see where the priorities are. So cars are going 5 or 10 miles per hour. That kind of activity animates the street and it is perfectly safe to walk across the street when traffic is moving that slowly, similar to a parking lot.”
Cochrane said the curbless street will allow pedestrians to “walk straight across.” Flower beds will line the street.
“Sure you look and you wait and you make eye contact with drivers,” said Cochran. “It is a terrific place to spend time with or without traffic. But, without the traffic, it doesn’t have the vibrancy that it needs.”
Cochran also addressed outdoor dining.
“Some people think this plan might hurt outdoor restaurants. I think it will transform (dining at restaurants) and they will do so much better especially the outdoor cafe. Studies show people go to outdoor cafes to people watch … to enjoy a meal of course but also to people watch. For that to happen there needs to be people to watch so when the pedestrian mall is filled with people and they pour in for events, outdoor cafes become very busy. It can be hard to get a table. That is the kind of problem that you want. I think they will be busier than they were in the past.”
The video can be viewed at https://historiccumberlandcitycenter.com/.