Easton Mayor Robert C. Willey has recently directed Town staff to take a look at a longstanding concept in Downtown Easton circles, to see if it retains relevance and is worth pursuing in 2020. The idea is that of the “Inner Courtyard” project. Bob Greenlee (Managing Director and Senior Advisor in the Chesapeake Office of SVN-Miler Commercial Real Estate as well as President of the Greenlee Group, an Asset Management, Valuation and Economic Consulting Firm) recently wrote guest commentaries appearing in both the Star Democrat and Talbot Spy. In it, Mr. Greenlee issues a call-to-action to resurrect and implement the Inner Courtyard Project.
The Inner Courtyard refers to the area of the interior of the core Downtown block formed by buildings fronting on Washington, Goldsborough, Harrison and Dover Streets. This area has long been utilized for informal parking, service deliveries, and storage. In the mid-1990’s, two separate Downtown studies advanced a higher use of this space, suggesting the space be improved and offer a common open area for outdoor dining, alternate or new business frontages, public gathering space, etc.
Town of Easton staff and elected officials have been working with a handful of stakeholders, including Mr. Greenlee, property-owners of the Courtyard area, and representatives from Easton Utilities, Easton Business Alliance, and the Easton Economic Development Corporation, to re-evaluate the concept of an Inner Courtyard. The initial conclusion of the group is that the project is definitely worth pursuing in 2020, but doing so with an awareness that there are obvious obstacles to overcome. These include finalizing a design of the Inner Courtyard, coordinating with multiple property –owners, on whose land the improvements would be made, determining how to pay for the project, and relocating or otherwise accommodating the existing use of the space as parking, trash pick-up, and loading areas.
The next step in the process is to elicit wider-scale stakeholder input on the project to finalize a design and develop the best strategy to bring the Inner Courtyard to fruition. EEDC is spearheading that effort with the goal of identifying an appropriate organization or firm to facilitate a Design charrette, or similar highly-participatory and design-based meeting, ideally in the next month or two.