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Campus gets boost from grant

October 29, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The State of Maryland will award a $775,000 grant to the City of Hagerstown to pay for part of a $4.2 million open space plan at the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center, the Maryland Governor's Office announced Monday.

The city had applied for $1.169 million from the state Community Legacy Program, a Smart Growth initiative created last year by the state.

"It's a big first step, allowing us to fund the most important part of this project," Hagerstown Mayor William Breichner said Monday night.

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Washington County business leaders first proposed the open space plan in 2000 to complement the University System's renovation of the Baldwin House complex on Washington Street.

As part of the plan, five buildings would be demolished and a park and a 153-space parking lot would be created.

Elected officials from the city and Washington County and the local delegation to the Maryland General Assembly have expressed support for the open space plan.

In a news release Monday, the state said it was awarding $775,000 to the city from the Community Legacy Program.

"That goes a long way in starting the project for downtown," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Hagerstown Senior Planner Kathleen Maher said the city had not yet been told the amount, which was to be announced today.

City staff will meet to see what parts of the plan can be done with the state funding, Maher said.

Breichner said Monday night the grant money will allow for the purchase and demolition of the old McCrory's store and the Grand Piano warehouse.

"Given today's economy and the tightness of the money, we are just delighted we are not forgotten and taken totally out of the mix," Hagerstown Councilman N. Linn Hendershot said upon hearing the news. "It is one more piece of the puzzle" to make the University System of Maryland become a reality in downtown Hagerstown.

Breichner said he, too, was pleased the state came through with the money, since it is projecting a budget shortfall this year.

As part of the plan, the former McCrory's building at 50-56 W. Washington St., next door to the education center site, would be demolished and, later, a small park would replace it, Maher said.

The state has budgeted $13.3 million for the education center. Classes are scheduled to start in January 2004, a University System spokesman has said.

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