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Baldwin campus plan revived

July 15, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

A downtown location for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Center is still under consideration, despite recommendations to the contrary by local and university officials.

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"It isn't as cut and dried as some people think," said Ronald N. Young, deputy director of the Maryland Office of Planning.

The news was an aside to Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony for the new Washington County District Court building.

Speaking under a tent off West Antietam Street, Gov. Parris Glendening praised the future site of the District Court as a perfect example of his Smart Growth initiative, which seeks to direct public investment toward revitalizing downtown areas.

In his speech, he alluded to an upcoming decision on the location of the campus.

"If we're going to keep the quality of life, that's going to require some tough decisions," he said.

Last month, university officials and a local steering committee rejected the idea of putting the campus in the former Baldwin complex on West Washington Street downtown.

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Instead, the committee reiterated its support for a site donated by Allegheny Power at the company's 20-acre Friendship Technology Park.

But the final site location is up to Glendening.

Glendening has asked a committee of state officials, including budget officials and Planning Director Ronald Kreitner, to recommend a site, Young said.

Glendening will take into consideration the steering committee's recommendation, said John W. Frece, the governor's special assistant for smart growth and neighborhood conservation.

The process is not expected to delay or derail the effort to bring a campus to Washington County, Young said.

Under the Smart Growth initiative, preference for locating public buildings is given to downtown areas, Frece said.

Other concerns such as cost and practicality could outweigh Smart Growth, he said.

"Each one of these proposals has to be weighed under its own merits," he said.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, both members of the steering committee, said they believe the campus will be built at the Allegheny Power site.

The fact that Glendening referred to the campus simply shows that he's interested in making it happen for Washington County, Munson said.

Later on Thursday, Hagerstown representatives promoted the Baldwin site during a presentation to the secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development Raymond A. Skinner, who was visiting the city Thursday.

Kurt Cushwa, a Hagerstown architect who donated his time to conduct a feasibility study on the Baldwin complex, showed his plan to renovate three buildings in the complex into 65,000-square-feet of classrooms and offices for the campus.

Students could park in the nearby city Parking Deck and take a walking bridge to the building. The deck is nearly filled during the day, but parking is available in the evening, he said.

"It's almost like the building fairy decided this was the place for the University of Maryland," Cushwa said.

The Baldwin complex also is being considered as a site for a proposed Civil War museum.

Putting a museum at that location would put a bigger strain on parking because it would draw more daytime visitors to downtown, said Debbie Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator.

If the museum were built elsewhere downtown, it would require substantial parking, possibly in the form of a second parking deck, she said.

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