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Locate UM at Friendship

June 16, 1999

Locate UM at Friendship

Tonight, sometime after Mayor Robert Bruchey makes a pitch for a downtown location, a 22-member steering committee will decide on a Washington County site for a new University of Maryland campus. We urge the committee to give the city's proposal, which members have received advance copies of, fair and thorough consideration.

Having said that, however, it's essential that they decide tonight, since the university system's Board of Regents Finance Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss a time line and construction plans for the new campus. At that meeting, it's important that there be a united front and no hesitation about what this area wants to do.

Foir more than 30 years, it has been the dream of various civic activists and local officials to have a four-year college here. We'll take this one, even though we know a traditional campus isn't exactly what's planned. Like the facility in Shady Grove, this campus will serve mostly people already in the work force who need training or advanced degrees to rise in their professions.

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But university officials have also said they'll respond to community demand, and if there's a demand for undergraduate classes, they'll answer it. Because each institution that offers courses won't have to worry about things like building maintenance, bringing in new offerings should be fairly simple.

As for our thoughts on the site, this project was originally envisioned for Frederick, and the easiest way to make this campus accessible to students from that area would be to put it on Interstate 70. The state is already financing a new interstate interchange there, and the campus could spur new job development in Friendship Technology Park, even as it tells those who travel along I-70 the important story to that this is a community that values higher education.

Put school HQ downtown

Last August, Washington County School Superintdent Herman Bartlett Jr., surprised some school board members when he proposed building a new central officie building to replace the cramped, patchwork office complex at 828 Commeonwealth Ave. The proposal didn't go very far because there are too many schools in need of renovation to make it politically feasible to do the central office first.

Then in February a Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce task force studying downtown revival recommeneded, among other things, that the school board's central office be moved downtown. We feel it's a good idea, for a couple of reasons.

When the new University of Maryland systems campus is built at the Friendnship Technology Park, some Frostburg State University classes now taught downtown will no doubt be shifted there, leaving a void downtown and possibly some empty space as well.

School board personnel could fill that space, be closer to their counterparts in city and county government and participate in the development of the city's arts and entertainment district.

And while a renovation of the Commonwealth Avenue site would be costly, moving downtown would allow the school board to raze the existing building, located on the edge of a business park. and sell the site for new business development.

Would this require that the county invest some new dollars? No doubt, but the County Commissioners have said they want to participate in downtown revitalization in a meaningful way. Here's their chance.

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