Mechanic Street Angel PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Richard Kerns   
Tuesday, 14 October 2008 22:27


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Barb Armstrong makes things happen

at the corner of Mechanic & Water

FROSTBURG - A longstanding effort to revitalize a Mechanic Street corner and create additional parking is nearing fruition thanks to the determined efforts of a Frostburg businesswoman.

Barb Armstrong of Armstrong Insurance was recognized at the September City Council meeting as a "Mountain City Angel" for her involvement in transforming the now-vacant lot at the corner of Mechanic and South Water streets.

Barb at Mechanic Street Lot"This is small in comparison to what you've done," said Mayor Arthur Bond, in naming Armstrong one of the first recipients of the new "Angel" award.


Also recognized as a Mountain City Angel was downtown businesswoman Peggy Atkinson, for her role in serving as a link between business owners and City Hall during last year's Broadway revitalization project.

The project at Mechanic and South Water, across from Armstrong Insurance, has been percolating at City Hall for nearly a decade.

Formerly the site of a car-dealership garage, the building that occupied the corner had long been vacant, and in recent years had decayed into an eyesore. In 2002 the city acquired the property and worked to market the building for business use. However, the structure had deteriorated to the point that no one wanted to invest the funds necessary to restore it.

The project languished until Armstrong stepped in, with her business providing financial assistance that allowed the building to be razed, and the lot cleared for redevelopment.

In addition to the garage, and with a further financial assist from Barb and Slug Armstrong, the city also purchased a deteriorating rental unit adjacent to the garage. That structure was also demolished to create the new open space.

Gail Baker, Frostburg Pizza II owner, purchased the old, faded shoe shop attached to the rear of her building. She tore down that building and has additional plans to improve the rear of her two buildings that adjoin the new open space.

As a result of Armstrong's involvement, what was once one of Frostburg's more unsightly corners is now primed for rebirth as a combination parking area and parklet, less than one block from the Main Street, Water Street and Broadway business corridors. "It's supposed to be parking and green space, Armstrong said. "It's not just asphalt."

In a testament to how unsightly the old garage was, the open lot is a great improvement aesthetically, even with its gravel parking area and some newly exposed building backsides that need a bit of toning up.

The City is entering the design stage now, building upon Frostburg designer Andrea DePalatis' original concept sketch that included a vision of plantings and pathways, benches and some trees.

"Her design was instrumental in showing the city and others that this parking/green space
could become a reality with some work and dedication," Armstrong said.

Armstrong envisions movie nights with outdoor screenings in the parklet. And hopefully those unsightly backsides of Main Street businesses will also be dressed up and rear entrances enhanced as part of the parking lot project.

"You have a clean slate, a drawing board for what can happen," Amrstrong said.

Frostburg City Administrator John Kirby said a formal landscape design of the lot is currently being developed by Specs engineers, which is also donating its services. A grant application will be submitted to the Maryland Dept. of Business and Economic Development by the end of the year, with a hoped-for spring construction.

The project is expected to come in at $100,000 to $150,000, not including any improvements to the adjacent buildings. "That's just the lot itself," Kirby said.

Asked why she became involved and committed funds to such a project, Armstrong said it just felt right. "I work a lot on my gut feeling, which usually works well," she said.

As with her involvement in the Foundation for Frostburg, the FrostburgFirst Main Street program, youth sports and a host of other community initiatives, however, the motivation runs deeper than playing a hunch. Armstrong cites Proverbs in explaining why she put shoulder to the Mechanic Street project to make it happen: "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it is in your power to act." 

"The city needed the assistance, and we had the ability to help," she said. "It's really a betterment to the community."



Last Updated on Thursday, 16 October 2008 21:44
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