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Square revitalization takes a hit

Sarah Harrington

(10/1) The much anticipated revitalization of the town square took a major hit this month with the closing of three businesses – St. Philomena bookstore and the attached Holy Grounds Café on the northwest corner, Hazel’s Thrift shop on the northeast corner, and Stavros Pizza on the South East corner. With these three businesses closing, only a few businesses remain operating on the square.

St. Philomena closed after a four-year stint. Hazel’s Thrift shop closed after only two months; it succeed CJ Embroidery which closed its doors last year after four years on the square. Lastly, Stavros Pizza closed after the sudden death of its owner.

While the business environment on the square is a long way away from its heyday, when the Square hosted two banks, a hotel, three restaurants, a pharmacy, a clothing store, and insurance company, Mayor Don Briggs brings refuses to throw in the towel. In fact, he has made revitalization of the square the cornerstone of his administration.

In February 2013, the town presented a proposed square redesign, which includes improving pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, and the overall aesthetics of the town’s central intersection. Mayor Briggs said the development of Downtown Frederick is an example he hopes to emulate in Emmitsburg, making Emmitsburg a "destination place to come to, not a place to drive through."

The design firm of Seth Harry and Associates (SHA) was contracted in 2013 to refine the plans for redesigning the square. The square revitalization, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million dollars, includes several improvements including relocating crosswalks, planters, decorative brick piers, a new clock, and an optional fountain. Mayor Biggs noted that is state approved design did not include benches for residents to sit on. If the town opted to include them, it would be an additional $55,000.

Briggs reports that the project is progressing nicely and over $300,000 of property grants associated with the planned improvements to the square are already underway. According to Birggs, the town meets with the design firm every six weeks to discuss developments of the project. The project was slowed down a bit while SHA Designs contracted a landscaping architect firm to assist in the project. Last month, the town and SHA Designs met with the potential landscaping firm to review their initial proposals for the landscaping and beatification of the Square. Briggs plans to share what recommendations the landscapers have suggested at the October town council meeting.

The current schedule has the town advertising for bids for the construction work in the Fall of 2016, with actual construction on all approved upgrades to begin in the Spring of 2017.

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