FROSTBURG - FrostburgFirst, an organization devoted to the improvement of life in the Mountain City, will soon ask the state to designate certain neighborhoods as an official arts and entertainment district and the city's residents get to choose where that will be.

The establishment of such a district will improve economic health and the general quality of life in town, according to Evan Offstein, a Frostburg State University professor who chairs a committee that studied the matter.

Frostburg's mayor and council voted Thursday to support such a designation. The county's blessing will be sought before the application is filed with the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

"The committee is allowing city residents to vote on two options for the district," said City Administrator John Kirby.

Jerilyn Jackson, Frostburg's Main Street manager, who is on the committee, said residents may visit City Hall Wednesday through Friday this week to look at maps of the two options and cast votes. In addition, votes may be cast by e-mail at

On Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. during a gathering at City Place, the votes will be counted.

Option No. 1 is 103 acres. The second option covers 113 acres.

Core areas are the same in both options, including portions of Main Street, Frostburg Depot, the university and Wood Street as a connector between the campus and business sector.

There are differences, however. Option No. 2 includes the neighborhood between Locust and Pine, whereas the other option does not.

Option 1 includes Center Street and the Frostburg Museum, but that is not the case with Option 2.

Kirby said an official designation would allow the city to offer property tax breaks for the renovation of buildings to be used for arts and entertainment.

"It would operate somewhat like our enterprise zone whereby there would be a percentage tax break for so many years for the proper kinds of development," he said.

Maryland is the first state to have such districts, according to the Maryland State Arts Council.

Besides property tax breaks, other advantages include income tax subtractions and exemptions from admissions and amusement taxes.

Cumberland has had such a district for five years.

Andy Vick, the executive director of the Allegany Arts Council, who helped to establish the arts and entertainment district in Cumberland, said he is looking forward to a similar program in Frostburg.

"When you think about what Frostburg already has, like the Palace Theatre, Dante's art exhibits, the library, City Place, Main Street Books, General Arts Store and the renovation of the Lyric Building, it will make for a wonderful arts and entertainment district."

Vick said Cumberland's district has been advertised in magazines specializing in the arts, resulting in the permanent relocation to the Queen City by dozens of artists.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at

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