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University officials choose Allegheny site

June 17, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

After remaining silent on the campus site question for a month, University System of Maryland Chancellor Donald Langenberg spoke out Wednesday, saying he preferred the Allegheny Power location.

A campus at the Hagerstown city-owned Baldwin House Complex site "would be far less desirable from our students' point of view," he said during the steering committee meeting held to consider the city's offer.

The Allegheny Power site remains the best available location, he said.

Many of those attending classes at the campus will have jobs and be going to school part time, he said.

Those students want an easily accessible campus with plenty of parking, Langenberg said. At a downtown campus, students would have to search for parking spaces and use facilities that were not designed as classrooms, he said.

System Capital Planning Director Mark W. Beck was even more vocal in pointing out problems with the city's proposed campus site, the 60,000-square-foot complex at 32-46 W. Washington St.

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He disputed the city's assertion that renovating the downtown buildings would be at least $4 million cheaper than the $12 million cost of constructing a new building at Allegheny Power's Friendship Technology Park site.

Later in the meeting Hagerstown Robert E. Bruchey II said he disagreed with Beck's conclusions.

The Allegheny Power campus site plan is modeled on the Shady Grove Center in Rockville, making it easier to estimate operation and construction costs, he said.

Architectural and building experts used information gathered from a tour of the campus last week to evaluate the city campus proposal, Beck said.

The estimate of at least a $12 million renovation cost is based on several factors, Beck said:

-- "1. Other than the primary facade and some of the exterior walls, the bulk of the interior structure (including walls, floors, floor structure, the roof and roof structure) are of questionable integrity and will have to be removed. Much of the masonry and stone work appears to be unreinforced. Wooden beams supporting the floors show visible signs of deterioration.

-- "2. Critical new utilities like plumbing pipes, heating and air-conditioning ductwork, electrical equipment, computer and communication cables, will have to be forced into pre-defined (and more confined) spaces.

-- "3. Renovation, especially when it involves significantly older buildings, is always less efficient than new construction ... Less efficient use of space translates directly into a higher cost per usable square foot.

-- "4. The age and condition of the buildings makes it more likely that hazardous materials are going to be a much larger problem than even we anticipate. Dangerous, friable asbestos insulation on heating pipes is a problem no one has denied. Aged plaster and tile may also contain asbestos fibers. Even worse is the problem of lead paint ... which would make demolition and disposal of the existing building materials problematic and expensive.

-- "5. What structure can be salvaged will require significant reinforcing and support."

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