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Students, residents share views on city

May 05, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

A presentation by University of Virginia architecture graduate students who have been studying Hagerstown, including a Superfund site, sparked a lively discussion of the future of the city Sunday.

Students from the university, some of whom have made suggestions on the possible reuse of the 19-acre Central Chemical Plant site in Hagerstown's West End, spoke with residents Sunday afternoon at the Frostburg University Center in downtown Hagerstown.

"I could see another mall and a movie theater at the Central Chemical site," said Helen Willis, a North End resident, one of nearly 40 residents who attended Sunday's informational meeting.

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But Willis reserved her more spirited suggestions for Hagerstown at large, questioning if the needs of people with disabilities were taken into consideration by the architecture students.

"Looks are important but have you considered how people are getting around?" Willis asked. "And how about a store downtown for downtown people?"

Professor Daniel Bluestone thanked Willis for her views and while they were more toward the downtown than Central Chemical, "good ideas lead one to another," he said.

"This is an incredible city with amazing architectural resources in your downtown area," Bluestone said. "We want to help you appreciate the assets you have here."

Phyllis Leach and her husband, Jack, have lived in Hagerstown for three years. Previously they called Washington, D.C., and Berkeley Springs, W.Va., home.

"We would love to see the downtown developed into upscale housing beginning with the second floors of the beautiful buildings in this city," said Phyllis Leach.

Jack Leach said he could envision what he described as an "oriel city" in Hagerstown, referring to the urbanized, upper-floor housing common in many larger cities. "Oriel" is a French word for bay window.

He suggested that it would take builders with vision to create such downtown upscale housing for people who like to live in the heart of their city.

Phyllis Leach said she is not as familiar with the Central Chemical site, but was leaning toward the sports park idea presented by student Kent Dougherty, who said that section of town needs more park land. Under Dougherty's proposal, some of the property could be used for park facilities, such as an in-line skate park, while other parts of the contaminated soil still are being removed or treated.

The other ideas for the site lined the room and participants were able to view them after the students presented their overall ideas for Hagerstown in a 90-minute slide show.

Displayed were proposals for a farm, a bird nesting place, a cultural center, wildlife refuge, rails with trails and even a "classroom" for people to see the remediation process when a site has been contaminated.

The university students have been examining Hagerstown as part of a study funded by an Environmental Protection Agency grant.

Members of a citizens land-use committee are recommending the site be reused as an office park or for light industry after the property is cleaned up, with buffer zones of walking trails and parks as well.

These and other recommendations will be presented to the community at a public hearing at 7 p.m. May 22 at Western Heights Middle School, where people may give feedback to the suggestions.

Earlier this year, EPA workers began testing the soil and other materials to determine the extent of contamination. That analysis, which will include a feasibility study for the cleanup, will take about two years, EPA officials have said.

Sixteen businesses identified as "potentially responsible parties" will have to pay for the cleanup of the industrial-zoned property and the EPA's work on the project, EPA spokesman Pat Gaughan has said.

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