Changes Are Coming to the Golden Mile

March 29, 2015 / / News

Frederick News Post Op-Ed
By Justin M. Kiska, President of the Board of the GMA
Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Golden Mile found itself in the press quite a bit a couple of years ago as the mayor and Board of Aldermen were discussing the rezoning of the Frederick Towne Mall site and drawing up the Golden Mile Small Area Plan. Up until then, a large number of people had pretty much written off the area as dead. Now, a couple of years later, nothing really looks any different. Looks can be deceiving.

There is a dedicated group of individuals working to help revitalize the Golden Mile. As a business owner on U.S. 40, I can understand how frustrating it is seeing nothing happening. However, as president of the the Golden Mile Alliance I know there are a number of major projects in the works. As I have spoken with people, I’ve found a lot of them don’t know what is actually happening on the Mile and that there are a number of misconceptions about this part of the city. One of the goals of the GMA is to provide information and help to clear up some of the misconceptions.

Obviously, the biggest question is what is happening with the old mall. The site is being completely redeveloped. The developers are working through the final permitting and planning phases, and the plan is for demolition of everything between Boscov’s and Home Depot to begin this summer. By the end of the year, the new Wal-Mart Super Center that is being constructed on the property will be underway. On the front of the property, closest to U.S. 40, there will also be a new shopping center with over 40,000 square feet of retail space and two restaurant sites. It’s not just a Wal-Mart.

On the other end of the Mile, at the intersection of 40 and Baughman’s Lane, stands the old state police barracks. It has been an empty shell greeting those coming to the Golden Mile from U.S. 15 and downtown for too long. That building will be coming down to make way for a Wawa convenience store and gas station, as well as a small retail area.

There is also the matter of the closing of the G-Mart in Westridge Square. The Frederick G-Mart did not close because of any problems the store was having on the Mile. The store closed because of corporate issues on a larger scale. In its place we will now have a more established grocer with H Mart. Slated to open this spring, this will be the company’s 49th store.

On the residential side, two brand-new housing developments are coming to the Golden Mile. The first is located on the old VFW golf course. Buchanan Partners are working on developing West Park Village, a mixed-use community that will include single family homes, along with a seven-acre city park and two commercial sites for retail and office space. Across Mount Phillip Road on Summers Farm there will also be a new housing development. This project is just now in the very early planning stages and working through the zoning process.

With these developments on the west side of 40 and the new Fredericktowne Centre directly across the street, the vision of the small-area plan will begin to come together as a mixed-use area. Before anyone starts saying that isn’t exactly what the small-area plan calls for as far as mixed use, it is a first step in bringing residential and commercial together. The small-area plan is something that is going to have to be implemented over time. It cannot happen all at once, no matter how much we want things to happen quickly.

In the Hillcrest area, Rocky Gorge Development is working on the Townhomes at Willow Bend with “a vision to bring quality housing and home ownership to the neighborhood.” In an area where town houses have been predominantly rental units, the company is renovating each town house and selling them to a number of different types of homebuyers, including first-time buyers and members of the service. Home ownership is proven to improve a community and there is no reason to believe this project will be any different.

Those traveling along the U.S. 40 corridor will also begin to see a new branding of the Golden Mile as the GMA launches its banner program, helping to create a unifying identity.

All of this is to say that just because you don’t see anything happening at the moment doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. To make the Golden Mile Small Area Plan a reality, we need to start somewhere and build a foundation for the future development of U.S. 40. For those who want to help the development along, I encourage them to join the Golden Mile Alliance and become a part of the change they want to see.