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Developer offers to fund campus study

May 27, 1999

By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer

[related story]

Hagerstown architect and developer Kurt Cushwa is offering city and Washington County leaders a free architectural study and cost estimates on turning the vacant Baldwin Complex in downtown Hagerstown into classrooms and offices for the University of Maryland System.

Last week, Hagerstown's Mayor and City Council offered the city-owned Baldwin Complex, a former department store, hotel and warehouse at 32-46 W. Washington St., to the state as a free site for a University System of Maryland campus.

In a letter dated May 24 and addressed to Hagerstown's mayor and City Council, the Washington County Commissioners and members of the Western Maryland Campus Site Selection Committee, Cushwa offered to do a free study of the Baldwin Complex.

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Cushwa said a report would include architectural drawings and a detailed cost estimate based on an actual architectural design that would include the required number of offices and classrooms.

The report also would include a structural analysis of the buildings, review of building code issues, and an estimate on the cost of demolishing the buildings and building anew.

Such a study typically would cost between $5,000 and $10,000, Cushwa said.

Cushwa said he is offering the services because a downtown campus would benefit the downtown area and the students.

Since February, and before the city made its offer, the Washington County Commissioners and University System officials have planned to build a campus on a donated 20-acre site at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park, about five miles from downtown Hagerstown off Interstate 70 on Downsville Pike.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook has scheduled a June 16 public meeting of the steering committee that selected the Allegheny Power site for the campus. Snook, who is co-chairman of the steering committee, called the meeting to give the city a chance to outline its proposal.

Cushwa said a technology park is an "inappropriate" site for a school building, whereas a downtown site is a "natural" spot.

Cushwa owns or is part owner of eight properties in the downtown area, including the Clock Tower Building on Public Square.

Former Hagerstown Mayor Steven T. Sager said the city should accept Cushwa's offer.

"It is something that is needed to demonstrate that the site can adequately handle the current space requirements and the future expansion needs," Sager said.

Sager, the Western Maryland community manager for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, developed the city's proposal and sold the mayor and City Council on the idea during a May 18 closed-door session.

Sager said renovating the Baldwin House site would cost $4.5 million to $7.6 million less than the estimated $12 million cost to construct a new building at the Allegheny Power site.

Current Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said a decision hasn't been made on Cushwa's offer.

Snook said city officials should decide whether to accept the offer.

related story:

-- Campus parking downtown no problem Bruchey

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