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Hagerstown officials hold brainstorming session

July 11, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

Developing a new business park and discouraging vacant property downtown were among several economic development issues Hagerstown's elected leaders discussed during a more than five-hour-long brainstorming session Friday morning.

City officials need to decide where they want the city's next business park to be since the one off Burhans Boulevard is almost full, said Councilman William M. Breichner.

Breichner and Councilman Lewis C. Metzner met with newly elected Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II and council members J. Wallace "Wally" McClure and Alfred W. Boyer on the front porch of Wingrove Manor at 635 Oak Hill Ave. to discuss their goals for at least the next year.

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Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein was absent.

Breichner suggested developing a new business park at the old CSX railyard off Burhans Boulevard or the area near Interstate 81 proposed for a new minor league baseball stadium.

Hagerstown Roundhouse Museum officials are interested in restoring an old roundhouse at the CSX railyard as part of a railroad or transportation museum.

Museum officials expect to learn by the end of August whether CSX officials will salvage or sell the roughly 30 acres, said Bob Tracey, museum president.

"That area desperately needs to be cleaned up. That's one of the biggest eyesores in Hagerstown," Metzner said.

The 68-acre site by Interstate 81 between Marshall Street and Salem Avenue is owned by Trust A&B, of which brothers Vincent and Charles Groh are trustees.

A shopping center that West End residents have wanted for years also could go on that land, Breichner said.

Both the Groh land and railyard are big enough for the proposed projects as well as a business park, he said.

If the railyard became a business park, it would be a good idea to extend Wesel Boulevard to Walnut Street to alleviate traffic in the nearby residential neighborhood, Breichner said.

Bruchey had several suggestions for improving downtown, retaining existing businesses and attracting new industry to the city.

City officials should consider creating their own economic development commission again as opposed to the joint one with Washington County, Bruchey said.

Bruchey said his proposal could be put on hold for a year to see whether the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission does a better job for the city.

He also suggested reinstituting a revolving loan fund to help local businesses.

The loan fund would help keep qualified existing businesses downtown that couldn't get a bank loan by providing them with a no- or low-interest loan, officials said.

Bruchey and some council members also said they wanted to review the Downtown Assessment District's taxing structure. They are interested in using tax incentives or disincentives to discourage vacant storefronts downtown.

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