Upper Marlboro storefronts and sidewalks could get a facelift in the next few years, but residents want more details regarding how soon they could expect the town beautification efforts to take place.
The downtown improvement projects are part of a preliminary plan to bring out Upper Marlboro’s historic character and make it environmentally sustainable such as adding bicycle lanes and an energy-efficient addition to town hall, said Stephen Sonnett, president of the town’s board of commissioners.
The 631-resident town, established in 1706, was designated as one of Maryland’s sustainable communities in March making it eligible to apply for a number of state grants to improve infrastructure and reinvest in historic buildings.
First, officials will have to conduct studies to determine how much of this is feasible, Sonnett told about 26 residents gathered for a special meeting Monday at Trinity Episcopal Church in Upper Marlboro.
Joe Plenzler, a U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who has lived in the town for almost four years, said he wants to see the town revitalize the Main Street area now dominated by bail bond businesses and lawyers’ offices to capitalize on the town’s historic nature.
“I’m glad that the commissioners put this plan through, but there has already been a lot of discussion,” he said. “I really want to see material results from this.”
The wish list of projects includes renovating the facades of buildings to give them a historic look, improving sidewalks, creating bicycle lanes to connect the town to nearby trails and finding a way to repurpose a former school building that has fallen into disrepair.
Sonnett and other town leaders have been working on the preliminary plans with representatives from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
“We can all agree that there are probably some areas in downtown that could do with a little bit of a face-lift,” said Christina Pompa, an M-NCPPC planner coordinator. “It’s going after grant money to essentially create a pot of money to help the businesses and the property owners do improvements to their buildings. But it’s really kind of complicated, because you have to look at, ‘Well, what do we really want to look like?’”
Other projects Sonnett highlighted included interpretive signs to draw attention to the town’s history and an addition to town hall.
“In order for a community to feel together it needs someplace to meet,” he said, adding that the current meeting area in town hall is too small. “[The] new town hall should be as green as feasible.”
Residents who attended the meeting said they welcomed these early ideas, but looked forward to seeing more details.
Hila Snyder, a retired librarian who has lived in the town for more than 20 years, said the plan to improve the appearance of downtown “sounds great,” but it will be complicated to put into action. County representatives said they have been collaborating with the town’s leadership on plans to improve environmental sustainability.
“We’ve been giving them some [guidance] on recycling and storm water management,” said Adam Ortiz, director of the county’s Department of Environmental Resources. “There’s a lot of opportunity in Upper Marlboro to do more.”