After years of debate over the fate of the Golden Mile, Frederick officials are poised to make a decision about the future of the troubled retail stretch of U.S. 40 at the city’s western edge.
The five-member Frederick Board of Aldermen is set to vote on the Golden Mile Small Area Plan at a public hearing on Jan. 17 after discussing the plan at a workshop on Jan. 2.
The document, created by the Frederick Planning Department to help revitalize the economically struggling area, includes guidelines for zoning and design standards for updating businesses in the area.
If the plan is implemented, developers would have to follow the guidelines when updates are made.
Matt Davis, Frederick’s manager of comprehensive planning, said at the workshop that the revitalization effort has broad support from residents, businesses and city officials.
Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) said the city needs to make implementing the plan a priority.
“The next significant development on the Golden Mile has to be the first development under the new plan, not the last development under the old plan,” O’Connor said.
City officials drafted the plan after gathering response from residents between January 2010 and January 2011. The Frederick Planning Commission approved it in August.
Some of the options for carrying out the plan if the aldermen approve it include:
• Updating language to modify mixed-use and general commercial zoning designations to help direct development.
• Adopting a code to emphasize the design of buildings.
• Rezoning properties, such as the nearly empty Frederick Towne Mall.
Owners of the mall — which is currently zoned mixed use and would have to include a residential component in any building update — have asked city officials to rezone the property to general commercial to aid development.
The once-thriving mall now has just three stores left with long-term leases: Boscov’s, Home Depot and Ollie’s Bargain Outlet.
Davis said the city could implement a combination of the options, depending on input from the alderman and the public, with the ultimate goal of bringing more business to the area.
“It drives more foot traffic,” he said. “People like to go to more busy places. It all goes together.”
Alderman Carol Krimm (D) agreed, pointing to the lost tax revenue from vacant Frederick Towne Mall, which she said was most recently assessed at $6.5 million — down from the $50 million for which the mall originally sold when it was built.
Krimm also said she hoped programs like the Golden Mile Tax Credit, which offers incentives for redevelopment, can help spur developers to upgrade the area, which stretches between U.S. 15 and Interstate-70.
Alderman Karen Young (D) said the guidelines and tax credits can help spur development because upgrades in one area might prompt improvements to other parts of the Golden Mile.
“It also drives economic development in nearby communities,” she said. “It has somewhat of a contagious effect.”
Residents in the area have long hoped for revitalization.
Belinda Morton, vice president of Neighborhood Advisory Council 5, which represents the area, said the changes made to the Golden Mile would impact all city residents, not just those who live in the area, because they can bring a shopping district back to life.
“It affects everyone,” Morton said. “It’s going to be important to our city what we develop, design, and what we do.”