Envisioning a Brand New Downtown Salisbury

Salisbury Trolly

“Envisioning a Brand New Downtown Salisbury” originally appeared in the August 2014 edition of the Salisbury Star.

If Jake Day had a magic wand, much of the work he and other members of the town council, as well as many Salisbury business leaders, hope to see accomplished would already be done. Lacking a magic wand, there’s not much else to do but keep pushing forward with creative solutions and working to see whether the new downtown Salisbury can be made a reality.

The projects will overlap, many even likely will run concurrently, but they all serve the same function: to prepare Salisbury to grow into an even better, more vibrant Eastern Shore city. To even begin to get a handle on what’s happening, it might be best to start from as far away as possible, narrowing our focus as details emerge. That’s how Day keeps it all straight.

“There are a thousand moving parts, and each of them have different scales,” said Day. “It might be best to start from 30,000 feet and then zoom in.”

The Longest View

The “Envision Salisbury Project” for which the town has partnered with the University of Maryland and had significant public participation is expected out in the coming weeks. It is the big picture vision for the Salisbury of the future. Envision Salisbury will be a true master plan, laying out what will happen to the town over the course of as many as 30 years. It will be a direction, malleable enough for the town to react to change in demographics but concrete enough to help residents make decisions about the future.

Envision Salisbury (which has a Facebook page with links to early drawings) has been in full swing since early this year, and has the audacity of youth on its side. It likely will push people to get excited in a way that a standard downtown revitalization plan likely wouldn’t.

The master plan would encompass the riverfront, including the marina, all the way through the downtown to to Route 13, extending and improving the riverwalk, and adding city amenities including playgrounds and athletic facilities.

Salisbury mayor jim ireton
Mayor Jim Ireton said every mayor in the history of the town has struggled with the idea of downtown redevelopment.

Pieces of the Puzzle

As the town begins to consider the master plan, along with the public comments about it, it will be reviewing development plans for the immediate plaza vacinity. Much already has been made of developing the parking lot behind the Wicomico County Library (Lot 11), as well as the one across the street, providing half of the parking access to the Plaza (Lot 1). By developing the area to include retail and apartments, the hope is to make the rest of the new Downtown Salisbury more attractive to and viable for the next generation of entrepreneurs. The city already is in negotiations with the developer and, should the negotiations be successful, they could have a final announcement for plans for Lots 1 and 11 by the end of this year.

Similarly, what has been dubbed the Main Street Master Plan, but really is more of a streetscape and infrastructure tune-up, nearly is ready to begin. The completed plan will replace deteriorating water pipes beneath the Plaza area and from Mill Street to Route 13, as well as change some aspects of the Downtown Plaza.

Beautification Radiation

The other opportunity is the re-imagining of Fitzwater Street as it comes into Main. The folks at the River’s Edge apartments have committed to a street beautification project and Chesapeake Shipbuilding representatives have given Day to understand they have a bit of a frontage spruce up plan in mind as well. For the city’s part, it will begin its own enhancement of Fitzwater Street on the heels of a needed lift station replacement near the marina.

Once the work is complete, plans are in the works to repave the entire street to include bike lanes that would run the length of Fitzwater Street beginning at Pemberton and likely ending at Lot 30.

Lot 30 is the piece of property on the corner of Mill and Main streets next to the drawbridge. Currently used for parking, the city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) that closed in August. The council is expected to begin reviewing the proposals and narrow down the finalists late this year or early next year. Day said the RFP gave developers a lot of latitude, encouraging them to be creative when assessing the cities potential needs for the future.

Although the continued loss of parking has been a concern of some residents, Day said parking might be moved, but little would be lost. New construction, however, might add cars that previously hadn’t been in the area.

Day said those considerations would be made as any other development project’s would, but beyond creating parking the the town has taken steps to try and reduce the need for so many people to commute into the City Center. Not only by adding bike lanes, but also by taking more public transportation steps.

Jacob Day and Jim Ireton
Day and Ireton getting more bang for their bucks.

Downtown Today

All of these future plans hinge on the city finding a way to keep the downtown relevant. Making it attractive to today’s residents is one of the best ways to keep people engaged. Another is to infuse new blood into the market. Over the next few weeks, the city would do both.

Partnering with Shore Transit, the town has helped establish trolley service between Salisbury University and the downtown. Beginning at the Perdue School of Business, the trolley will wind through several of the off-campus housing complexes before stopping at Evolution Public House, then at the east and west ends of the Plaza.

Also, for the second year in a row, the city will host freshman and sophomore business students for an introduction to business on the Plaza. Students will meet with business leaders, offer insights into what appeals to them as potential downtown entrepreneurs and what things they tend to look for in the city.

The Salisbury Trolley has opened a Facebook page for posting updates and schedules.

This story originally appeared in the Metropolitan