Study says three Baldwin buildings should be razed

June 20, 2000|By SCOTT BUTKI

A study made public Tuesday says three of the five buildings in the Baldwin House complex, which is to be used for a state education center, can't be renovated or reused, contradicting comments made by the governor's assistant for smart growth.

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One of the three buildings that should be demolished is the four-story Baldwin Hotel, according to a structural evaluation of the proposed site for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Center.

The report by Whitney Bailey Cox Magnni, consulting engineers and planners from Baltimore, was paid for by the city of Hagerstown and the Washington County Commissioners. The report cost about $10,000.

John Frece, the smart growth assistant, told a joint meeting of the Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners Tuesday that one of the governor's goals for the project was to "protect, preserve and re-use the historic Baldwin House complex if at all possible."


"The buildings have been determined to be structurally sound, readily adaptable for university uses and cost effective to renovate," he said.

Frece said renovation might even be less expensive than demolition.

He later said that renovation in this case did not just mean saving the facades of the buildings, but preserving some of the interior, too.

A more pessimistic picture of the condition of the complex was portrayed in a Maryland Department of Environment environmental site assessment and the consultant's report. Copies of the reports were provided to the city and the county during Tuesday's meeting.

The complex has five buildings: Routzahn's Department Store, a concrete warehouse, the Baldwin Hotel and two structures behind the hotel. The Routzahn's building and the warehouse can be renovated, the Whitney Bailey study said.

But for each of the other three buildings the consultant wrote, "It does not appear that this building can be renovated for the proposed new use."

For the Baldwin Hotel the consultant adds, "We recommend that this building be demolished."

Some parts of the building have been damaged by water leaks and other sections showed signs of dry rot, the consultant said.

During the meeting Commissioner Bert L. Iseminger pressed Frece on whether the report recommended whether the complex be demolished or renovated. Frece said it did not contain suggestions, but was intended to be a status report.

The study found that there were environmental problems, including asbestos and lead paint, he said. The levels of both were not unusual and could be easily handled, he said.

Those environmental problems would have to be addressed even if the buildings were demolished, Frece said.

The Maryland Department of the Environment report said lead-based paint chips litter the floors of the buildings.

The report also said there is an unregistered, abandoned storage tank on the property and a "petroleum-like odor" in the basement of one building, among other problems. The odor may be the result of a prior petroleum release, it said.

Frece could not be reached for comment Tuesday night after the report was made public.

See related story: Governor's office favors Baldwin renovation

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