Mayor Randy McClement on facilitating private investment

Carroll Creek Linear Park
Carroll Creek Linear Park in Frederick, MD. Photo by Sarah Absetz.

Known as “The City of Clustered Spires,” Frederick is the second largest city in Maryland, with a population of 65,000 residents. Located an hour from Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD, the city boasts a 40-block downtown historic district and an unmistakable sense of place.

“Frederick is the second largest municipality in the state, but we still have a hometown feel. This is not just from the architectural character of the town, but also the character and personalities of the residents,” says Mayor Randy McClement, a member of the Maryland Chapter of Smart Growth America’s Local Leaders Council.

The city has a history of revitalization, starting in the 1970s after several major employers had left the city and massive flooding devastated downtown Frederick. The resulting flood control project was designed to double as a downtown park and economic development tool. The first phase of the park project, called Carroll Creek Linear Park, was completed in 2006, and includes pedestrian paths, water features and an outdoor amphitheater. The $15 million project brought a $50 million return on investment to the city, adding 1,500 new jobs and transforming the downtown.

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement
Frederick Mayor Randy McClement

Currently, the city is struggling to recover from the economic downturn. “My vision is to methodically look at all aspects of our city—growth, revenue generation, economic income—and take it one year at a time to make sure we can keep the services that the citizens are expecting with limited resources,” explains Mayor McClement. “The only way to increase our revenue is to grow, but we need infrastructure to grow. Trying to find that balance is difficult. City infill growth is the best because a lot of infrastructure is already there.”

Although the city’s budget is tight, the Mayor is continuing to invest in the downtown. “Infill growth is the way to push forward the economy,” he says. Mayor McClement has worked to begin Phase II of the Carroll Creek Linear Park. “It is one thing we have control over that can help the private sector move forward,” he explains. “The track record was there, and we’re expecting a $30 million return on investment for Phase II. That is still double our money.”

To continue to revitalize Frederick, Mayor McClement is working to establish a downtown hotel and convention center. “This is a good example of a public/private partnership and it is driven by the major employers in the Chamber of Commerce. They have a need for a full-service hotel downtown to bring in nationwide conferences,” he says. The Mayor has worked to facilitate this process by conducting feasibility studies and identifying potential sites. The city government is now reviewing two proposals for those sites.

Mayor McClement offered advice for fellow local leaders working to revitalize their community. “Find out what your best attribute is, and concentrate on that. Don’t try and spread yourself too thin in ten directions. For Frederick, it was our unique architecture and personality of our residents,” he says.

If you would like to learn more about Frederick’s downtown revitalization and you are a member of the Maryland Chapter of the Local Leaders Council, you are invited to attend a “Downtown Revitalization Strategies” workshop in Frederick on September 4. Please register here. Contact Sarah Absetz for more information or if you would like to join the Maryland Chapter.

Local Leaders Council