Campus parking defended

May 27, 1999

By DAN KULIN and SCOTT BUTKI / Staff Writers

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Placing a University System of Maryland campus in downtown Hagerstown would bring students, teachers and their cars into an area that has suffered from a perception that parking spaces are few and far between.

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The chief proponents of a downtown university site say, however, that parking will not be a problem.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said if more parking lots are needed to serve students, they will be built.

Former Mayor Steven T. Sager said the downtown probably has enough existing parking spaces, and said "a full analysis needs to be done" to show that's the case.

Most of the students will be evening students, and in the evening most of the spaces in the city parking deck are available, Sager said.


The key would be to determine parking needs and availability for daytime students, Sager said.

The city parking deck, on the first block of North Potomac Street, has 444 parking spaces. Monthly parking permits have been issued for 313 of those spaces, according to Stephen Wolfensberger, city treasurer.

According to figures provided by Wolfensberger, 738 parking spaces are available in parking lots within three blocks of the Baldwin Complex at 32-46 W. Washington St., the city-owned building the mayor has offered as a site for a university system campus.

All but about 390 of those spaces are designated for state, county or postal employees. On weekends and after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, the number of parking spaces available to the public increases to about 668.

The parking lots include the Rochester lot in the 200 block of West Washington Street, the lot at the City Farmers Market on Church Street and the Antietam lot on the first block of West Antietam Street.

Another 342 metered spaces are along the streets within that area. Metered spaces are free on weekends and after 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Wolfensberger said.

He said there are no current figures on usage of downtown parking spaces.

Plans for the Hagerstown university campus call for a minimum of 400 parking spaces, university system spokesman Chris Hart said Thursday.

The plan is for the campus to draw 750 students, 25 faculty and five staff members, Hart said.

About 595 of those would drive cars, and approximately one-third of those would take day classes, he said.

The Washington County campus is modeled on the Shady Grove Center in Rockville, a System campus.

About 90 percent to 95 percent of the students there take night classes, said James Hartsock Jr., assistant director of academic programs at the Shady Grove Center.

What students love about Shady Grove is the easy accessibility, he said.

The last thing students want as they rush from a job to classes is to look for parking spaces, he said.

Shady Grove had 490 spaces for its first phase and 350 for its second phase, which was an additional building.

As part of a program study showing the campus needs, the county mailed surveys to employees at 79 companies. The county received 737 responses from employees at 33 companies. Many of the respondents said they would take classes if they were offered.

Of those responding, 368 people wrote that the most convenient time for them to attend classes would be 5 to 8 p.m.

Downtown revitalization plans all suggest adding parking lots.

For decades, people have said the downtown lacks adequate and easily accessible parking.

Many of the respondents to an informal survey conducted by The Herald-Mail this week listed possible parking problems as a reason against putting a new University System of Maryland campus downtown.

Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook, co-chairman of the campus site selection committee, said Thursday that parking availability is one of the concerns he has about the downtown campus proposal.

During a May 18 closed-door City Council meeting, Sager, now a state employee, proposed that the city offer the Baldwin Complex to the state as a free site for a University System of Maryland campus.

That same day, Bruchey sent a letter to the governor offering the city-owned Baldwin Complex, a former department store, hotel and warehouse, to the state for free.

The County Commissioners and University System officials have planned since February 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.

Sager says renovating the Baldwin House site would cost $4.5 million to $7.6 million less than constructing a new building at the Allegheny Power site, which would cost an estimated $12 million.

Bruchey said if the university is located downtown there may be the need to construct more parking spaces near the Baldwin Complex.

Snook has scheduled a June 16 public meeting of the steering committee that selected the Allegheny Power site for the campus. Snook called the meeting to give the city a chance to outline its proposal.

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