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Arts center proposal praised

June 05, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

A proposed $10 million Visual & Performing Arts Center for downtown Hagerstown received a resounding round of applause from the crowd of roughly 100 people on hand for the plan's unveiling Monday at the Maryland Theatre.

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"I'm all for it. I think we need something like this," Bob Nigh, a resident of downtown Hagerstown, said after the presentation.

"I think what they want to do is really needed for Hagerstown to go forward," said John Erath, 60, of Hagerstown.

"It will clean up downtown and attract more people to the community," Erath said.

The proposed arts center would incorporate the Maryland Theatre and would include three buildings around the theater, which is on the first block of South Potomac Street.

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Aspects of the proposal include construction of a larger lobby on the Maryland Theatre, demolition of the three-story building south of the theater's courtyard, and renovation of two buildings just north of the theater to create space for art galleries, dance studios, music rehearsals, and a small theater.

The two buildings are known as the Edison apartments and the former Henry's Theater. McBare's Pub is on the first floor of the building south of the Maryland Theatre courtyard.

The arts center probably would be built in phases, said Robert D. O'Hatnick, who was representing the Baltimore architectural firm Grieves, Worrall, Wright & O'Hatnick. That firm developed the specifics of the proposal.

O'Hatnick said the demolition of the building south of the courtyard and construction of the new lobby probably would be done first.

Jim Pierne, head of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce committee that is proposing the project, said the Monday presentation was held to get feedback on the plan.

At the conclusion of the presentation, Pierne asked the audience if they "had an overall favorable impression" of the proposal. The audience responded with a round of applause.

After the presentation, Pierne said it "sounds very good right now."

Pierne said his committee will get together within the next two months to decide what the next step should be.

When the arts center would be built and how it would be paid for are undetermined. Pierne said government and private funding will be needed for the project.

State Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said the city, county and state governments should come together to help pay for the arts center.

"I like the overall concept a lot. I see the Maryland Theatre as the keystone to the success of downtown," said Munson, who said he would support state funding for the project.

Pierne said there have been some "preliminary" discussions with surrounding property owners, but said no agreements have been reached.

Performances at the Maryland Theatre would not be put on hold during construction, Pierne said.

The proposed arts center is part of an overall plan being promoted by the Chamber to establish an Arts & Entertainment District in downtown Hagerstown.

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