Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street works to support and promote existing businesses while working to attract complementary businesses that will best serve the surrounding community. With a very active Board of Directors and a talented group of volunteers, the Director of HLMS is well supported and is in a position to work closely with new businesses.
Each new business will receive assistance that will include a search for the right building, help with Use & Occupancy permits, an explanation of the two existing Urban Renewal Plans, business mentoring, limited legal advice, a listing on the HLMS website, promotion on Facebook, website, newsletter, newspaper and blog. Design assistance is also available for Facade Improvement Grants that include exterior improvements such as signage, lighting, painting, awnings, doors and windows.
HLMS designs events that attract visitors from inside and outside of the commercial district. Business owners are encouraged to act as sponsors of events, or volunteer in a way that best highlights the assets of the business. Meaningful relationships between a business and the surrounding community develop as a result of active participation in events.
The communities of Hamilton and Lauraville are looking for retail that includes business types that are currently lacking. The community members have expressed a desire for clothing, shoe, home accessories, small hardware store, art supply retail. Office space is available in a variety of sizes, and we happily invite more lunch patrons. Over 22,000 commuters pass through the business district every day.
There are eight neighborhood associations that surround the business district. A large art presence exists and events are planned for the first Friday of every month to help attract new patrons of galleries and small businesses. Cross promotion among very friendly business owners is a popular method to share customers. Community members help to advertise businesses and plan meetings in small businesses to attract more customers. Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street is business friendly!
Street president Richard Marsiglia and director Regina Lansinger plan to turn a
sour situation into a commercial kitchen.
For more than two decades, the old gas station lot on
Harford Road has been the community lemon, sitting unused with a sinking roof
atop a shabby building and uneven grounds strewn with pebbles and weeds. But
now it is the latest passion project for Marsiglia and Lansinger.
The founding members of the nonprofit organization,
whose mission is to revitalize and support local businesses in the commercial
district, have been calling on residents to contribute to their fundraising
efforts by buying paper lemons, available in Hamilton and Lauraville shops, for
a $5 minimum donation. The lemons, signed by their donors, can be seen on the
walls of local businesses like Zeke's Coffee and Green Onion, signs that a
future commercial kitchen — dubbed Main Street Kitchen at the Lot — will be an
important fixture in the community, Marsiglia said.
"It's going to be
'feel good,'" said Marsiglia, also the owner of Green Onion, a fresh food
market, and Hamilton Vacuum. "It's going to solve some of our goals as a
Main Street to incubate and develop businesses ... and it's also going to be a
community thing where it's going to help jobs.
It's also going to help
teach people better eating habits. It's going to have a bunch of different
aspects happening at the same place."
The fundraising was sparked by Lauraville resident and
landscape architect Sarah Hope, who painted a black-and-yellow lemon mural on
the crumbling building that reads "Help turn this into lemonade."
"While we were brainstorming, we were trying to
focus on something that was food-related. We wanted to come up with something
that visually represented food and the process of making food," Hope said.
The paper lemons, combined with local businesses' and
state contributions, have raised around $300,000. Still, the organization has a
long way to go. The kitchen is projected to cost between $700,000 and $800,000
over three to five years, Marsiglia said, and the site still needs inspections
and approval from the Maryland Historical Trust before construction can begin.
Purchased by the Baltimore Development Corp. around a
decade ago, the lot has seen only minimal renovations, like the removal of gas
tanks to ensure that the space is safe and ready for construction.
"It was an
eyesore," Lansinger said, but Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street has used the
space for community events regardless of the unattractive landscape. The
organization began hosting farmers' markets in the lot on Tuesday evenings in
would look at this place and think, 'Why would anyone want to sit here?'"
she said, but neighbors, who Lansinger described as "tough," came and
stayed for hours, listening to music and dining at the picnic tables the
organization provided. Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street went on to host
successful business meet-ups, community yard sales and Halloween parties in the
started to hear from people that they were excited about the market,"
Lansinger said, and more vendors wanted to sell their homemade goods. The only
problem was the lack of certified kitchens available in the area. That is when
Lansinger, Marsiglia and Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street board members put
their heads together.
started pushing the commercial kitchen idea immediately," Lansinger said.
They envisioned the lot as a community space where people would gather for
social events and annual Christmas tree lightings. They imagined the kitchen as
a place where chefs, youth, seniors and veterans could prepare foods, network
and learn new job skills. David Chapman, who has been selling international
comfort food from The Green Bowl food truck at the Hamilton farmers' market for
two years, said the commercial kitchen will be valuable to up-and-coming
vendors and startups.
"I know what it would
have done for us if something like that was available," said the
35-year-old Hamilton resident, who hunted for a commercial kitchen for nearly
two years before opening his own about a year ago.
said he encountered several obstacles when looking for kitchens, which are
scarce in Baltimore.
we were promised access to equipment time, we were always pushed to the corner
and treated like a guest or an unfortunate necessity, which made it really hard
for us, trying to grow and thrive in an environment where we never felt
welcome," Champan said.
with the Main Street Kitchen, Chapman said, he pictures things going
going to be a great place for people that are in a position like we were when
we were first started. Potentially they could be a commissary for food
trucks," he said, noting that food trucks are often required to have a
sanitary kitchen or home base to prepare and store food and equipment.
and Lansinger researched the prospect of opening a commercial kitchen by
traveling to others in urban areas, including Washington and Detroit. They
sought help from local politicians, pitching the community kitchen and town
square idea to the mayor and state Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat.
McIntosh, who supported
the idea, fought for capital funding for the Main Street Kitchen proposal, and
in 2014, Hamilton-Lauraville Main Street was granted a $250,000 bond bill from
the Department of General Services. The only condition was that the
organization had to come up with a match of $50,000.
of the things about that community is that they started a farmers' market,
which did so many things to encourage the neighborhood to get involved, to
bring in Maryland foods and organic foods. [They were] promoting eating
better," McIntosh said. "It has a history of having an idea, getting
organized and getting it going, and they have been successful."
July, the organization signed a 25-year lease for the lot, and in October, it
held a fundraising festival with a beer garden and a showing of the new mural.
Around 600 people attended, Hope said.
Main Street organization reached its $50,000 goal in January, receiving roughly
half its donations from local businesses. The other half, Marsiglia said, was
generated from events and the sale of the paper lemons.
Marsiglia and Lansinger are happy with their recent accomplishment, it's just
one step of many.
of our hurdles was getting the lease, and the next biggest hurdle is
fundraising. It's a really difficult thing to do," Lansinger said.
"The process really is about raising money."
the paper lemons still up for purchase and the farmers' market set to return in
June, Lansinger and Marsiglia are hopeful that they can bring their mission to
farmers' market is very community-supported, so we're getting our message out
to the right people," Lansinger said. "Those are the ones that we
want to support this project."
couple Bill O'Connor and Sue Holmes of Lauraville, who have lived directly
behind the gas station for the past 35 years, have supported the Main Street
events for years. They welcome the idea of the community kitchen and an
improved neighboring property.
said the lot has long been an eyesore.
hard to see it anymore," said Holmes, who described Hamilton as a
"foodie" neighborhood and "too nice and desirable" to have
such a space.
we moved here, it's been awful, and it wasn't within our power to do anything
about it except look out the window and see it every day," she said, noting that the only
upside to living behind the space is the smell of the honeysuckle vines that
grow on the fence between the two properties.
who has long hoped for an unobtrusive replacement, agreed.
believe it'll be good and low-impact — other than maybe the smell of delicious
foods wafting over here."