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Bowers pitching downtown projects

January 08, 2001

Bowers pitching downtown projects



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


Former Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers has been lobbying for downtown Hagerstown revitalization projects, including three that involve buildings owned by the Perini family.

Bowers, who has done consulting work for the Perinis, has met with state and local officials about revitalization projects at two other Perini-owned buildings downtown - the Keystone Building in Public Square and the Washington County Department of Social Services on North Potomac Street.

But Bowers is especially interested in incorporating the Perini-owned Towne Center building into the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center.

University officials are planning to renovate the former Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street to house university programs, including those now held at Frostburg State University's classrooms in Towne Center.

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But Bowers says it doesn't make sense to renovate one building only to leave an empty space in Public Square. He unveiled a proposal in October that would have the university occupying both the Baldwin House complex and the Perini-owned FSU building. His proposal would also expand the North Potomac Street Parking Deck.

Bowers believes it could be done for less than the cost estimate of the university's current renovation plan, which currently stands at $15.3 million.

At this point the university has not changed its plan and would not do so unless instructed by Gov. Parris Glendening, said Mark Beck, director of capital planning for the University System of Maryland.

The university is requesting construction money in Glendening's proposed 2001-02 budget, which will be announced later this month.

A group of Washington County business leaders is also pushing for a separate plan to create parking and open space around the Baldwin House complex but it doesn't involve the Towne Center. That plan would cost an extra $4.4 million.

The two other revitalization projects are:

- Remodeling the basement of the recently renovated Keystone building, 1 W. Washington St., to house the Hagerstown Police Training Academy.

Moving the academy to the square would free up space at police department headquarters on Burhans Boulevard for a needed expansion of the crime lab.

The Hagerstown City Council has discussed the need for more crime lab space with Police Chief Arthur Smith, but hasn't looked at all of its alternatives, said Councilman William M. Breichner.

Breichner said he would prefer the city first consider housing the training academy in buildings already owned by the city.

- Expanding and adding a parking deck to the Washington County Department of Social Services, which operates from a 53,000-square-foot building at 122 N. Potomac St.

All three of the projects would be done using a combination of state, local and private money.

Bowers pitched the projects to Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on Oct. 23. He was joined by members of the Perini family and Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II. No deals have been finalized.

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