Downtown site slated for court project

November 26, 1997

Downtown site slated for court project


Staff Writer

Washington County District Court is expected to relocate to a new location downtown, although official word isn't expected before next Wednesday, Hagerstown officials said Tuesday.

Vincent Groh, owner of the old Brandt Cabinet Works warehouse at 36 W. Antietam St., said Tuesday night that he signed a contract last week to sell the 29,280-square-foot lot with the four-story warehouse to the state.

The sale won't be complete until the Board of Public Works approves it, possibly next Wednesday morning, officials said. The board must approve all property sales to state agencies or institutions. The board consists of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon.


Groh said the building's sale price was between $200,000 and $500,000.

Maryland Department of General Services officials could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.

The warehouse would be razed for a new District Court building that would have at least three courtrooms, state officials have said.

The new building would have a separate entrance and exit for court detainees, eliminating the need for defendants to be taken through public hallways to courtrooms, as they are now at the 33 W. Washington St. court, officials have said.

In August 1996, former Chief Judge Robert F. Sweeney, said he wanted to relocate District Court to Wesel Boulevard, but members of the local delegation to Annapolis and city officials balked at the idea of moving District Court out of downtown.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Tuesday night that District Court belongs downtown.

If the District Court left, downtown also would lose attorneys' offices and support businesses such as restaurants and shops, Bruchey said.

Sweeney described the current court building as "undersized, uncomfortable and really not adequate to our purposes." The building, once a Montgomery Ward department store, was converted about 20 years ago into county and state offices, with District Court on the ground floor.

The sale of the warehouse property depended on Groh getting parking spaces in exchange for those he would lose by selling the West Antietam Street property, officials said.

Council members on Tuesday night unanimously approved a 99-year lease with Groh for 14 parking spaces on Rochester Alley in exchange for Groh selling the warehouse to the state for a District Court building, said Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator.

Groh needs the parking spaces to fulfill leases to provide parking for some downtown shops, Everhart said.

Groh bought the warehouse from Brandt Cabinet Works in 1982 for $200,000 with plans to turn it into a shopping, office and residential complex.

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