Downtown Frederick’s streetscape is likely to evolve in small pieces rather than as part of a larger project under a plan presented to the mayor and aldermen Wednesday.
The study of the downtown streetscape — the 60-foot area of sidewalks and streets between the buildings on either side — would add wider sidewalks to the inner core of the neighborhood with more business and restaurants and other changes to more outlying areas.
The area in the study includes Market Street between South Street and Seventh Street and Patrick Street from Bentz Street to East Street.
“This is a challenging project,” Brian Reetz, of the consultant Design Collective, told the mayor and aldermen Wednesday.
The current streetscape has basically “aged in place” since it was put in about 30 years ago, Reetz said.
Its limitations include accessibility, safety and tripping hazards, narrow sidewalks, limited chances for outdoor dining and parking issues, which have been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic and as downtown sees more foot traffic, according to a memorandum prepared for Wednesday’s meeting by Chief Administrative Officer Marc DeOcampo.
In a survey done as part of the study, 88 percent of people who responded said the walkability of downtown was a strength, while 75 percent named garage parking and 58 percent named public art as strengths.
Among weaknesses, 46 percent named bikeability, and 27 percent listed on-street parking.
A medium-term concept for the core area — considered to be north of Carroll Creek Linear Park and south of Third Street on Market and east of Market Street and west of Maxwell Avenue on Patrick — would include 19-foot-wide sidewalks and two 11-foot-wide travel lanes. One of the travel lanes could changed to a “flex” lane to allow parking and deliveries during non-peak hours.
A similar plan for the outer areas would include 12-foot-wide sidewalks, two 7-foot parking and flex lanes and two 11-foot travel lanes, one of which would include a bike lane.
While the plan also includes other short- and long-term ideas, DeOcampo said Wednesday’s workshop was just the first step in a long process.
City staff can start exploring the recommendations, he said.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said the downtown area has always been about adapting and reusing space.
The proposals represent a possible future but not necessarily the future, he said.
Alderman Ben MacShane said the presentation included some good concepts and designs, but it would represent an extremely expensive overhaul of the densest and most-used part of downtown.
“I don’t know that that’s something we should be doing,” he said.
But maybe some of the changes make sense if you have to tear up a block to make stormwater improvements or for some other reason, he said.