Perryville aims to rejuvenate downtown area
Joins state program to foster development
jbellmyer@ cecilwhig. com
— With an eye on obtaining “Main Street” status, town officials are working with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development on acquiring an affiliate status first.
Main Street Maryland is a program that helps des-
ignated towns with promotion, development, training and education geared toward economic stability. The 28 towns in the program so far, including Elkton, have a mix of history, shopping, architecture, entertainment and events.
Coordinator Amy Seitz said some towns, such as Aberdeen, Snow Hill, Rock Hall and Perr yville, that want that designation — and the state assistance that comes with membership — need more guidance to get there.
“They were interested in the Main Street Maryland program,” Seitz said, but the town has no identifiable business district in the original downtown. “Town leaders had the insight to look for tools to grow downtown.”
This is where they found the Main Street Affiliate program, which is equivalent to a farm team for the Main Street program itself.
“This is for communities that are interested, but aren’t quite ready for the
Main Street designation,” Seitz explained Thursday.
Coming before the mayor and commissioners at the work session Tuesday night, Mar y Ann Skilling, town planner, said there needs to be an effor t to define a business district.
“We don’t really have a Main Street right now. We used to,” Skilling said.
Those who have called Perr yville home for more than 50 years recall a bustling area centered around Broad Street with a grocery store, drug store, bank, hardware store and other commerce. With the state’s expertise, Skilling said Perr yville could have that long- awaited renaissance.
“They are going to help us get back to having a Main Street,” she said.
That’s good news to Al Afghani, owner of the Perryville Sports Bar on Broad Street near Aiken Avenue.
“We need to find out why businesses left and bring them back,” Afghani said in a quiet lunch hour dining room. “The town is dead.”
Afghani opened his business in August and has struggled to increase patronage.
“The town has to support us. The community has to support us,” he said, suggesting the town include photos of businesses on its website.
“I want a sign to attract people in,” he said, noting he wanted a 4- by- 5- foot sign, which is the same size a neighboring business uses. “I can only have a 2- by- 3- foot sign.”
Diane Howard opened The Grooming Shop in the shopping plaza at the corner of Aiken and Broad in March. While she works on growing her own client base, Howard considered other types of businesses that could do well in Perr yville.
“We need a pet store,” she said, pointing to a vacant commercial business across the street. “Maybe an antique store?”
Thinking about the population from Perry Point Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Howard thought of another potential business.
“A coffee shop would be great. Vets drink a lot of coffee,” she said, also figuring a coffee shop would complement her store and the barber shop.
Seitz said the affiliate program would push the town toward strategies that have worked elsewhere, focusing on what officials, businesses and the community identify as needs for a thriving business center.
“They have a great team and great ideas, but it’s not going to be an easy, overnight thing,” she cautioned.
Afghani said more could be accomplished if the town would work with businesses.
“It’s a nice old town with lots of nice buildings and the water,” he said. “The town has to do something to promote it.”
“We’ll work with them, with their history and traditions ... to make it a walkable, pedestrian- friendly community,” Seitz said. “Perhaps they could create business incentives, fast track permitting.”
Mayor Jim Eberhardt liked the idea of DHCD support.
“If we’re ever going to get a Main Street designation, we need to know what we need to get us there,” Eberhardt said.
Skilling suggested in the future that the town should form a nonprofit organization solely to guide economic redevelopment in Perr yville.
“If this gets us back to where we want to be, I support it,” Commissioner Alan Fox said.
Al Afghani, owner of Perryville Sports Bar and Grille on Broad Street, said town officials need to do more to support businesses in town and to attract new businesses and patrons.
What was once the Perryville Outreach Center is now a vacant storefront at the corner of Aiken Avenue and Broad Street. Town officials hope that by enrolling in the Maryland Main Street Affiliate program, they can arrive at a strategy to boost economic development.
Diane Howard opened The Grooming Shop at the Perryville Shoppes on Aiken Avenue in March. Howard welcomes the town’s plans to get help from Maryland to improve the downtown business district.