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Governor's office favors Baldwin renovation

June 20, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

The vacant Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown will be renovated for use as a $12.5 million state university center, a governor's assistant told a joint meeting of Hagerstown and Washington County elected officials Tuesday.

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The University System's staff and the governor's staff have "reached final agreement that the new University System of Maryland Hagerstown Center will be housed in the Baldwin House complex," Special Assistant to the Governor for Smart Growth John W. Frece said.

He said the complex will be "completely renovated to the University System of Maryland's building design standards and will include all appropriate high-tech capabilities." It could open by fall 2003, he said.

The Mayor, City Council and County Commissioners went behind closed doors to hear a separate $4.4 million proposal for additional improvements around the Baldwin House complex. Members of a Greater Hagerstown Committee task force met privately with the elected officials and state officials working on the university project to discuss "downtown property acquisition," according to the agenda announcing the closed meeting.

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Prior to the public being excluded from the meeting, task force member Jim Pierne said the group had a $4.4 million proposal "to provide for open space around the university center."

Pierne refused to take questions after the meeting. Several elected and state officials declined to discuss what was said during the closed meeting.

County Commissioner Paul L. Swartz and Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the $4.4 million for the proposal, which they declined to discuss, would probably come from the state.

But the two state officials at the meeting, Charles R. Middleton, vice chancellor of academic affairs with the University System of Maryland, and Frece, said there has been no request to the state for that $4.4 million.

Earlier in the meeting, Frece said the governor "strongly supports" the use of the Baldwin House complex for redevelopment into a university center.

The complex is a collection of city-owned vacant buildings at 32 to 46 W. Washington St. The buildings once housed a department store, hotel and warehouse. The city has offered the buildings to the state for free.

Frece and Middleton said some work, such as repairing leaky roofs, must be done before renovations begin. They said they did not know how much that work might cost.

Frece said the buildings are "structurally sound, readily adaptable for university uses, and cost-effective to renovate."

However, a copy of a structural analysis obtained after the meeting stated that buildings were not all structurally sound.

The analysis also stated the pre-renovation improvements would cost about $160,00.

See related story: Study says three Baldwin buildings should be razed

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