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University officials tour Baldwin House

June 09, 1999

Baldwin HouseBy BRUCE HAMILTON / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




University System of Maryland representatives on Tuesday morning got their first glimpse of the Baldwin House Complex, which the City of Hagerstown has offered as a site for a System campus.

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They had to look beyond the vacant complex's dilapidated appearance to visualize the classrooms, laboratories and offices described by Hagerstown architect Kurt Cushwa.

Rubble covered sections of the floor, peeling paint hung from the walls and caving ceilings were in obvious disrepair. The visitors eyed old radiators, ladders, stacks of plasterboard, broken glass from windows and piles of fallen plaster.

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City Planning Director Ric Kautz and Cushwa led the tour through the boarded-up buildings at the 32-46 W. Washington St. complex.

"The reason it looks this way is the previous owner sold it to a developer who started an interior demolition," said Cushwa. He has said he would give the city a free architectural study and cost estimate on the project.

"There's plenty of volume on each floor so you have room to work," said Kautz.

The University System's two engineers and other staff made few comments about the site.

Others offered their opinions.

Harley Cloud, director of the University System's Shady Grove campus, said it would be easier to raze the structure and start over.

"Having built two buildings I've got to believe it's going to cost a fortune to refurbish this," he said, standing in the cavernous upper floor of the former Routzahn's department store.

"I just think it's the wrong thing for Washington County," Cloud said of the Baldwin Complex. "The other plan is a natural."

Before the city made the offer, a steering committee had selected as the campus site 20 acres in Friendship Technology Park near Interstate 70 on Downsville Pike.

Washington County Public Works Director Gary Rohrer also advocated the Technology Park site Allegheny Power has offered to donate.

It doesn't make sense for regional students to go downtown, he said.

Since Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II offered the Baldwin site on May 18, camps have formed in favor of each location. Proponents of the business park criticize downtown's access and security.

Bruchey and former Mayor Steven T. Sager say access and security are not problems. They say the downtown site is better because renovating it will save the system at least $5 million and may revitalize the downtown area.

Cushwa said renovation would cost about $60 per square foot based on estimates from Mike Callas, president of Callas Contractors. The complex is about 60,000 square feet, and Cushwa said renovation is 40 percent cheaper than erecting a new building.

Cushwa said his vision of the facility is a self-contained complex, easily reachable from the parking deck to the rear. Students would walk across a bridge connecting the deck to the buildings and access all parts of the complex without stepping off the site, he said.

As a group of 15, some wielding flashlights, navigated the complex's passages Tuesday, Cushwa and Kautz said offices would be in the Baldwin House while classrooms would be in the Routzahn's section. The rear warehouse area would house lab space.

"It has the potential advantage of being in the heart of the town, but there are many other factors to consider," said Lila Vij, a university engineer and project manager. University staff plan to conduct their own analysis based on the visit.

"It was enlightening to see it, as opposed to just hearing about it and reading about it," said Chris Hart, a System spokesman.

The same steering committee that selected that Allegheny Power 20-acre site will hear the city's proposal for the Baldwin Complex on June 16.

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