CUMBERLAND — A master plan for Cumberland’s city center was unveiled Tuesday with improvements suggested for several sections including Canal Place and Roses Plaza.
A state technical assistance grant for $50,000 was secured to cover the cost of the report which was compiled by Destination by Design Planning of Boone, North Carolina.
Eric Woolridge of Destination by Design gave an hour-long presentation on the master plan at City Hall. Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and the members of the City Council along with Paul Kelly and Matt Miller of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp. were among the officials in attendance.
“It’s a look at what the city wants to be in the next five, 10 or 15 years,” said Kelly. “The plan gives some ideas of how we can grow the community and to be very opportunistic. We can show (these plans) to developers. This is the kind of material they want to see.”
The master plan focused on connectivity and ease of travel for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists in the community. In addition, it looked at where developers could reclaim, or give up, urban forms to create opportunities, according to Woolridge.
The aspirational plan included maps which broke the city center into five sections: Southern Gateway at Industrial Boulevard, Cumberland East which included Maryland Avenue, Canal Place North and South, the Park Street areas and the downtown core which included Roses’ Plaza.
Some of the suggestions include a roundabout at Wendy’s at the southern gateway to the city along with an attractive welcome monument.
Improvements at Canal Place would feature a continuation of Pershing Street extended through what is now the Cumberland Times-News parking lot to Canal Place where a large bus stop facility could be added.
Woolridge said Design by Destination planners met with dozens of the stakeholders in the target area to discuss their ideas prior to compiling the report.
“We went through multiple version of the plan to get to this place with a diverse group of stakeholders,” he said.
The plan also included changing Queen City Drive into a boulevard with the north and south lanes separated by a median with greenery. The Roses’ Plaza parking lot could be multi-use with structures at the top portion by the boulevard.
The plan suggested more residential housing than commercial for Maryland Avenue. A finished street was recommended for Putnam Street and Willison Place that passes Patrick’s Pub and leads to Martin’s Supermarket.
“We are looking at infill and redevelopment opportunities,” said Woolridge. “The CSX property (beside Martin’s) is a green field or brown field site ... kind of a clean slate. Then you have other areas live the Roses complex that is a redevelopment opportunity. So we have a combination of those.”
A bus station was suggested for the Park Street vicinity.
Woolridge said the plan offers suggestions and options but market demand will ultimately play a major role in what changes could come to fruition.
The master plan did not include a branding component. Councilman Seth Bernard said a master plan needed a branding component.
“I think that is one of the biggest hurdles we face in Cumberland is people’s perceptions and attitudes,” said Bernard. “Branding needs to be a key component of the go-ahead with this project.”
Woolridge said a branding study requires a “real honest look” at a community.
“You look at who you are and then find the positive in it,” said Woolridge. “There are tons of positive things that are happening here but how do you put it into a visual brand. It is one of the hardest things we do. When people see (the branding logos) they need to say, ‘that is who we are, that is what we are about.’”
Morriss said he and the council will review the plans.
“It is a lot of information in a short amount of time,” said Morriss. “I can tell there is a lot of work and detail put into it. There is a lot of material to look at and digest. I think it is something that will help us going forward.”
The aspirational plan will be reviewed by the mayor and City Council in the coming weeks and a vote will be taken to determine if the plan is accepted.
Follow staff writer Greg Larry on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.