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Brunswick sees bright future in downtown business

Monday - 2/20/2012, 2:00am  ET

Brunswick (Frederick News Post)
West Potomac Street is one of the Brunswick business areas officials hope to revitalize. (Frederick News-Post/Bill Green)

BRUNSWICK -- Whether in small towns or cities, business owners, governments and nonprofits constantly seek the best way to revitalize their communities, according to Michael Sparks.

"It's just a matter of how you go about doing it," said Sparks, new executive director of Brunswick Main Street, a nonprofit that works to create an attractive and lively downtown.

At bottom, the effort requires cooperation among local businesses, elected officials, chambers of commerce and residents -- all of which Brunswick has, he said.

Brunswick has other qualities that Sparks and others hope will help to make it what he calls a destination city: a place where people will want to come and linger.

Brunswick's mix of shops, restaurants, the Brunswick Railroad Museum, the C&O Canal, the MARC train and new, high quality housing, including the Brunswick Crossing development "creates an area that is of high value, because you have a lot of people moving around it," he said.

"I imagine any business would take advantage of that."

Yet the area is still working to turn itself into that destination place where businesses and properties offer just the right mix of needs and wants for residents and visitors, Saprks said.

Christina May is marketing and community relations director for Pleasants Development, developer of Brunswick Crossing, as well as chairwoman of Brunswick's Economic Development Council.

As the building of Brunswick Crossing's anticipated 1,505 houses continues, more families will take care of their shopping needs in the Brunswick area, she wrote in an email.

"This can only positively affect downtown businesses."

About 60 homeowners are now in Brunswick Crossing, she said. Several of them have patronized downtown shops and many use the MARC train to commute to work.

Pleasants Development works hard to promote the city, she said. The Brunswick Crossing "visitors cottage," for instance, is designed to educate people about the area, including the C&O tow path, the new Brunswick Library and schools. The development's marketing program, including a website, brochure and social media channels, also provides information about local services and amenities.

Angel White, a Brunswick city councilwoman and owner of Head-Quarters, a barber shop and hair salon, said since she took over her shop about three years ago, business has picked up.

"I've definitely seen more business interest in Brunswick, more so because people see the potential here," she said.

Some of this improvement can be credited to the city's planning and zoning board helping businesses reach their goals, a grant-funded program by Brunswick Main Street to help property owners fix up their building facades and a cooperative environment among business owners and residents, she said.

Brunswick's future could include a mix of retail shops, restaurants and office space, she said.

"We're hoping to fill all the stores here, with the right types of businesses here in Brunswick."