Plaza in Downtown Salisbury, MD. Photo by Ed LeCompte via Flickr.
As the “Hub of Delmarva,” Salisbury, MD is the largest city on the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia peninsula. With a population just over 30,000, Salisbury serves as the commercial, transportation, media and employment hub of the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
Jake Day, City Council President since April 2013 and Advisory Board member for the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council, is looking to reverse decades of disinvestment in Salisbury’s core.
“We are one of the finest examples of a community that has invested heavily in the periphery at the expense of the core,” explains Day. “We need to make a permanent investment in the heart and soul of our downtown. This is the time to make the decision that our downtown is where we will invest. We will invest until it is surviving at the expense of the periphery. No one else is going to do it for us.”
As City Council President, Day has helped foster a spirit of cooperation and collaboration among City Council members. “We cleared the backlog of legislation in the first three months so that we could focus on new opportunities,” says Day.
One of the most significant successes of this cooperation is the creation of a Downtown Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDUs) Incentive Zone, which allows the water or sewer charges to be reduced or eliminated in designated zones, encouraging development there.
Salisbury’s partnerships don’t stop within the City Council, though. The City has teamed up with the University of Maryland School of Architecture, Preservation & Planning to serve as the school’s urban laboratory. Graduate students will work with Salisbury residents to enhance the Downtown Revitalization Plan. The City is also working with the State of Maryland’s Smart Growth Subcabinet to effectively utilize available state resources. This partnership kicked off with a downtown tour and public meetings, and the Maryland Department of Planning created 3D models of a re-envisioned Downtown Salisbury.
Salisbury currently has three major development projects underway, is redeveloping a historic fire station into a public arts venue and start up facility and has moved the Salisbury University Art Gallery to the downtown from its campus on City’s edge.
According to Day, one of the keys to Salisbury’s successes has been strong community support. Viral marketing campaigns, ongoing downtown events, a mobile app and a new website have helped build excitement to revitalize the city.
“We need to empower people to believe that they can do it with or without the local government,” Day explains. “This is a community effort, not a government effort.”