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Open space project discussed

August 29, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Speakers told a consultant on Thursday they would like a planned open space area in downtown Hagerstown to not only be a place for students of the adjacent college to go but a site were others in the area can eat lunch, attend events and take part in other activities.

About 25 people attended a Thursday evening meeting to give feedback to landscape architects Mahan Rykiel Associates of Baltimore on the proposed 170-foot by 250-foot open space area adjacent to the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center.

The architects presented preliminary drawings depicting what the area could look like with permanent and moveable seating, paths, trees, grass and other amenities

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The city of Hagerstown's $73,740 contract with the architecture company is being paid by three grants the city received, Planning Director Kathy Maher said.

The Greater Hagerstown Committee proposed the open space plan in 2000 to complement the University System of Maryland's renovation of the Baldwin House complex on Washington Street, which is scheduled to start offering classes in January 2005.

The consultant met Thursday morning with officials from the city, the University System, Greater Hagerstown Committee and others involved in or affected by the work.

The consultant solicited feedback on what should be done with the property. Between the morning and evening meetings, information was compiled so the ideas could be shown, as the preliminary drawings, at the evening meeting.

Hagerstown Planning Commission Chairman Doug Wright said the first priority of the project should be to provide a place for students to go.

But University System Planning Director Mark Beck told the group that what is good for the city in terms of drawing people to the area also is good for the university.

As part of the city's original open space plan, five buildings would be demolished, and a park, decorative pavement and landscaping would replace the buildings.

The city has grants and approval for a contractor to demolish the former McCrory's building and the former Grand Piano building, but the demolitions have not been done because of hurdles that have arisen with adjoining property owners, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

The demolitions will occur within the next two months and he hopes work on the park space can begin next summer, Tissue said.

Andy Kallback, an associate with the architecture firm, said the site could be a good spot for outdoor arts and entertainment events.

Scott Rykiel, vice president of the architecture firm, suggested the park be gated and locked at night as a way to avoid or deter security problems. He said the education center will have some of its own security.

Rykiel and community residents said having security and good lighting will help convince people to use the park and students to attend the university.

Rykiel read aloud a list of the 10 elements of successful urban spaces, one of which is to have public bathrooms. Beck said the University System did not want to provide restrooms for the whole area, but Tissue said the city's present plans for the land don't include a bathroom.

The issue will be resolved later, Tissue said.

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