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West End project

May 16, 2000

The barrack-style, two-story townhouse units that make up the Westview Homes public housing project in Hagerstown's West End are 50 years old now. And while housing officials say they aren't dangerously dilapidated, buildings that old are tough to maintain.

But before the city government gives its full endorsement to the Hagerstown Housing Authority's proposal to replace Westview's 210 apartments with 330 new units, we hope city officials will get answers to a few questions.

The first and most obvious concern is how services will be provided to an additional 300 people - the plan will increase the population there from 700 to 1,000 - in one of the most crowded areas of the city. Just getting the traffic to move smoothly with that many additional folks will be quite a challenge.

Has any thought been given to providing medical offices on-site, or failing that, to provide shuttle bus service to the health facilities, including the free clinic, in downtown Hagerstown? And while the proposal does call for an expanded community center, have there been any discussions with the Boys and Girls Club officials about placing a satellite program center in the West End, as they did with the Frederick Manor project?

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On the plus side, the project should enhance the city's tax base, because 60 of the proposed new units would be sold to private owners, for $60,000 or $70,000 apiece. For would-be homeowners of limited means, this would seem to be the way to start building equity.

In addition, the plan would also purchase 27 dilapidated homes that surround the existing project, homes which would be renovated for re-sale or for use as additional public housing units.

The key to the $36 million project is a $9.5 million federal grant the HHA will apply for this week. If housing officials can reassure the city that traffic and on-site services can be dealt with successfully, the project could be a major part of the city's residential redevelopment.

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