Downtown Frederick: Frederick, Maryland
Having survived numerous threats — natural, political, and economic — to its existence, Downtown Frederick is an urban montage, seamlessly blending old and new. Its treasure trove of 18th-, 19th- and 20th-century buildings — one of the largest contiguous historic districts on the East Coast — traces the city's architectural development. Adaptive reuse is the rule and new construction echoes, rather than imitates, the past. The iconic clustered spires, immortalized in John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Barbara Frietchie," are part of an architectural portrait that has evolved over some 260 years.
The 40 square-block neighborhood is defined by Third Street to the north, East and South Streets to the east and south, and Bentz Street to the west.
Having survived numerous threats — natural, political, and economic — to its existence, Downtown Frederick is an urban montage, seamlessly blending old and new. Its treasure trove of 18th-, 19th- and 20th- century buildings — one of the largest contiguous historic districts on the East Coast — traces the city's architectural development. Adaptive reuse is the rule and new construction echoes, rather than imitates, the past. The iconic clustered spires, immortalized in a John Greenleaf Whittier's poem "Barbara Frietchie," are part of an architectural portrait that has evolved over some 260 years.
Strategically placed public art — cascading fountains, cast iron trees, imaginative murals, and the renowned trompe l'oeil Community Bridge — intrigues passersby. The 1.3-mile mixed-use linear Carroll Creek park, designed to remove the downtown from the 100-year floodplain, is a recreational and cultural treasure, featuring brick paths, an amphitheater, and two dozen water mosaics. The city's initial $11 million investment in the park has leveraged $150 million in new construction, infill development, and historic renovation.
In Frederick, the seat of county and city governments, a brick station built in 2001 serves as a transit hub downtown, including service to Washington, D.C. A variety of uses — housing, restaurants, museums, shops, and government offices — help animate the streets as residents and tourists move about downtown.
Each year downtown Frederick attracts 1.4 million visitors, a number that can be attributed to its location, natural beauty, progressive government, ongoing planning, and active citizenry.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Frederick Towne Historic District is Maryland's second and the nation's 13th local historic district (1952). Frederick Historic District added to National Register (1973)
- Vast range of architectural styles, including Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Neoclassical Revival
- Adaptive reuse widely embraced; nearly all historic properties renovated to serve industrial, commercial, residential, and public uses
- Historic Preservation Commission (est. 1952) approves all exterior work on all buildings, outbuildings; design guidelines approved in 2001, updated in 2008
- Height restrictions (1986) ensure view of clustered spires will not be obstructed
Commitment to Planning
- Downtown Development Plan (1970), created when retail began to leave for malls, establishes vision of downtown as city, county economic engine; deflects urban renewal efforts
- Carroll Creek Commission, created after devastating 1976 flood, spearheads planning and development of Carroll Creek Linear Park and flood control project; resulting master plan (1991, updated 2003) led to $65 million in public and $155 million in private investment
- Establishment of Frederick Town Historic District and Carroll Creek overlays (2003) allows for more unified infill development, preserves community character
- North Market Retail Plan (1995) develops strategies to combat high vacancy rates, control adult-themed businesses; East Street Corridor Plan (2001) spurs physical and economic revitalization efforts for Carroll Creek Park, East Street extension (to I-70), and commuter rail station; Community Legacy Plan (2003) coordinates public, private efforts
Live, Work, Play Neighborhood
- Five thousand residents living in single-family homes, townhouses, condos, and apartments; transitional shelters, Section 8 rentals, and scattered-site rentals for disabled adults. Density bonuses for affordable housing development
- City and county government major employers; home to 600 businesses including specialty foods stores, boutiques, banks, home-furnishing, antique shops, 40-plus restaurants; 5,000 people work downtown
- Elementary, middle, and high schools within walking distance, as are government agencies, a new public library, and social service organizations
- Carroll Creek Park connects downtown to Baker Park
Engaged Leaders, Citizens, and Organizations
- Antebellum buildings saved from Confederate torch (1864) when town leaders raised $200,000 from local banks
- Former Mayor Ronald N. Young (1974-1990) was the catalyst for revitalization efforts aimed at reclaiming failing downtown
- Downtown Frederick Partnership — group of business owners, residents, and organization representatives — is umbrella organization for more than 20 events
- City and its nonprofit fundraising arm host more than a dozen events downtown attended by 200,000 each year
Art, Entertainment, and Culture
- State Arts and Entertainment District (2003); tax deductions, exemption from state admission and amusement tax, and property tax credit for arts-related improvements
- Public art prominent; numerous murals, including award-winning trompe l'oeil Community Bridge, a plain concrete bridge transformed into ivy-covered stone bridge. Carroll Creek Park includes tile water mosaics, fountains, sculptures
- Home to several live theaters (including Weinberg Center for the Arts), an amphitheater, museums, and art galleries