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City to buy buildings, plans cultural center

November 13, 1996

11/13/96

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Hagerstown officials have agreed to buy two deteriorating buildings, one of which could be converted for use as an arts or cultural center.

City Council members voted 5-0 Tuesday afternoon to purchase buildings at 38 S. Potomac St. and 66-70 W. Washington St. from Groh Realty Co. for a combined $275,000. Federal Community Development Block Grant funds will be used for the purchases, officials said.

In keeping with the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce consultant's plan that suggests the first block of South Potomac Street be turned into an arts and cultural area, city officials said the 38 S. Potomac St. building could be used for the arts or cultural purposes.

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City officials are negotiating with a private organization to renovate the three-story brick building, said City Administrator Bruce Zimmerman.

The building, for which the city will pay $120,000, housed Tristate Electrical Supply Co. Inc. about 25 years ago, and now usually is vacant, Mayor Steven T. Sager said.

One potential use for the building could be a science center that would offer interactive exhibits of science, technology and local history, Zimmerman said.

The city probably would retain ownership of that building, Sager said.

The West Washington Street building, where Nik's Gallery is located, would be put out for bid for sale and redevelopment by the private sector, Sager said. The city will pay $155,000 for that building.

Zimmerman said the city would help current tenants relocate.

Most downtown redevelopment projects have been done with private investments, but city officials occasionally feel the need to step in, Sager said.

Such was the case with the Hager Center, one of the city's more successful redevelopment projects, and with the Baldwin House in the first block of West Washington Street, which so far has fallen short of its potential, Sager said.

The Hager Center now houses several businesses and government agencies including the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the local office of the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Plans for a Baltimore developer and a local businessman to turn the Baldwin House into luxury apartments and retail shops fell through last month when the developers failed to obtain sufficient financing, Sager said.

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