Local waterways are central to the history, identity, and essence of Ellicott City. Recognizing this significance, the Howard County Council unanimously approved County Executive Ball's Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan in 2020. This plan isn't just a blueprint; it's a promise for the future of Ellicott City.
The Master Plan is a comprehensive, long-range document that creates a community-driven vision for historic Ellicott City and the Tiber Branch Watershed. As the County moves forward into the future, the Master Plan will ensure that Historic Ellicott City remains a place where environmental resources are protected, small businesses thrive, and community is prioritized.
Implementing the Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan
Lower Main Street Building Removal and Renovation
Following the 2016 and 2018 floods, the County acquired ten buildings on Lower Main Street, from the former Phoenix building (8049 Main Street) to the former Caplan's Building (8125 Main Street). Under the Ellicott City Safe and Sound plan, four buildings on Lower Main will be removed to expand the stream channel. The remaining six historic buildings will have the portions crossing the stream channel removed, and the remainder of the six buildings will be renovated, retained, and returned to use.
The building removal and renovation work on Lower Main Street is expected to commence in Winter 2024. Upon completion of the building removal and renovation, work will progress on the expanded Tiber Park on Lower Main Street.
Expanded Tiber Park
The Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan calls for an expanded Tiber Park to be constructed on Lower Main Street following the removal of four county-owned buildings. The channel widening and Maryland Avenue culvert projects provide an opportunity to create a new and expanded Tiber Park public space amenity encompassing the area surrounding the channel and incorporating Tiber Alley.
The project will include representation of the buildings that formerly occupied the site, and communicate the history of the site to the public. This will also facilitate a generational opportunity to introduce new viewsheds to the iconic Ellicott City B&O Station - the oldest surviving railroad station in the Country.
Historic Courthouse Revitalization
Standing majestically at 8360 Court Avenue, the Historic Circuit Courthouse dates back to 1843 and has been part of Ellicott City's history for more than 175 years. In 2021, the Historic Circuit Courthouse officially closed to the public as the newly developed state-of-the-art Circuit Courthouse was completed and opened at 9250 Judicial Way. This relocation creates a unique reuse opportunity of the County-owned historic courthouse and adjacent properties.
As the County commits to a vibrant and active future for Ellicott City, the Historic Courthouse building will be renovated, revitalized, and returned to public use as a new focal point for town.
During his 2023 State of the County Address, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball announced that the Historic Courthouse in Ellicott City will be repurposed to become a transformative Center for Arts, Culture, and History. After receiving comments from more than 600 community stakeholders, the historic courthouse will become a space for the Howard County Center for the Arts, the County’s first Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Cultural Center, the nationally recognized Roving Radish, and a shared commercial kitchen space.
Wayfinding in Ellicott City
The Ellicott City Wayfinding project will include the creation and installation of wayfinding signage for Historic Ellicott City. The Ellicott City Watershed Master Plan identified the need for a comprehensive wayfinding system for the area to help visitors find parking and attractions, enhance commercial district branding, and identify high ground in the event of emergency.
The County received $250,000 for the Wayfinding Signs in 2022. The project is currently in planning and design.
St. Paul Street Pocket Park
The St. Paul Street Pocket Park project will improve County-owned parcels along St. Paul Street in Historic Ellicott City. This project envisions creating a terraced park space and a new pedestrian connection between Lower Main Street and St. Paul Street. This project will also facilitate critical emergency means of egress, capable of being used in a flood scenario, from buildings located along Lower Main Street to High Ground Egress Points.
The County received $150,000 for St. Paul Street Pocket Park in 2023. The project is currently in planning and design.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the purpose of the Master Plan?
The purpose of the master plan is to develop a comprehensive, community-driven vision for rebuilding historic Ellicott City. The Master Plan is charged with developing strategies to address multiple objectives in addition to flood mitigation.
What is the relationship between the Master Plan and the EC Safe and Sound Plan?
The EC Safe and Sound plan is a multi-phase plan built around the need for public safety, supporting business and property owners, preparing the county for a changing climate, and creating a more inclusive, community driven process for decisions regarding Ellicott City’s future. The Master Plan is an element under Phase II of the EC Safe and Sound plan.
What is the relationship between the Master Plan and the General Plan?
The geographic scope of the Master Plan is downtown Ellicott City and the surrounding Tiber-Hudson Watershed. The General Plan is the comprehensive plan for all of Howard County and guides decisions related to development, land preservation, changing demographic and employment trends, neighborhood sustainability, capital projects, County services and other key issues.
What is the relationship between the Master Plan and the Section 106 process?
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act involves assessment of project effects on historic properties. When a project is found to have an adverse effect on historic properties, alternatives are explored to avoid, minimize, or mitigate those effects. For more information on the Section 106 process, please refer to the Maryland Historical Trust’s guide.
Flood mitigation projects that require a joint permit from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment will trigger the Section 106 process.