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Pave downtown and put up a lot of parking lots

July 03, 2000

Pave downtown and put up a lot of parking lots



This may or may not be what historical interests had in mind when they lobbied for the University System classroom building to inhabit the Baldwin House. The Baldwin may be saved, but it looks as if everything else will be lost.

In order to enhance the, the something, of the Baldwin House, at least five buildings will be destroyed and more could be on the block.

OK, the McCrory's building I understand. That's a '70s era throwaway style, architecturally speaking, although where I'll buy plastic shoes and tank top T-shirts, eight-count for $2 after they're gone I have no idea.

But the campus building will need a little elbow room, and a nice little park for the students and the crack dealers to enjoy sunny afternoons is a must, to my way of thinking. Every college brochure in the world has a cover shot of students sitting in the grass outside their hall of learning.

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But after that, I don't know. Best I can tell, the city wants to tear down a bunch of old parking lots to make room for a bunch of new parking lots.

At first blush this would seem to be about a $3 million waste, especially since the city parking deck next door goes largely unused.

But this just shows how little people know about their own home town. I hate to tell you this, but the city "parking deck" is not really a parking deck at all. It is a super secret government installation clandestinely known as "Parking Area 51" where CIA operatives store information about UFOs and Los Alamos hard drives.

Ten years ago, the federal government's secret branches got together and said "Where is there a foolproof safehouse, some place where no one ever sets foot and we can perform covert activities in peace without fear of ever being disturbed?" About that time a Hagerstown parking deck flyer mysteriously fluttered into an operatives' lap and the rest is history.

You don't believe me? Have you ever been past the first deck of the "parking garage?" Of course you haven't. No one has, except for "Company" spooks.

Four items: 1. Most of the students will attend classes at night. 2. The parking deck charges for night parking. 3. Meters in Hagerstown don't operate at night. 4. The parking deck is losing $400,000 a year.

So quick, lets hurry up and build more metered lots, so no one will have to park in the garage and the parking deck will continue to lose huge sums of money. Please - someone, anyone, stand up and tell me why this is a good idea.

Near as I can tell with this campus project, demolishing buildings is not a consequence, it's a goal. Have you noticed that not a lot of shopkeepers seem to be shedding buckets of tears when they learn their buildings have won membership in the wrecking ball caucus?

"What, my building is being demolished? Oh woe is me. How much cash do I get? No, that's OK, just mail it to me in St. Pete."

Even Frostburg is looking to leave its home on Public Square, and one of the reasons for putting the University System campus downtown was so that Frostburg would not be compelled to leave its home on Public Square - thus leaving the city center with a vacant hole like the gap in a hillbilly's teeth.

So what do you think they will do with the FSU building?

A. Tear it down.

B. Talk about what an architectural and historical treasure it is to the city center, and then tear it down.

All of Hagerstown is falling like dominoes. Is this a bad thing? Hard to tell. I suppose it's good in the sense that it may significantly reduce the number of empty storefronts downtown, inasmuch as it will reduce the number of storefronts, period. But I don't think some people will be happy until they tear down the parking deck and replace it with a metered lot.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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