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Planner says downtown is ready to turn around

February 05, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown Planning Director Kathy Maher said Wednesday that the city is "on the cusp of completely turning around downtown."

Maher listed eight major development projects that are either planned or in progress in the city's downtown core.

Speaking at the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce's monthly Eggs & Issues breakfast meeting, Maher said the projects represent a total investment of more than $27 million.

The biggest project is the $13.5 million renovation of the former Baldwin House complex on West Washington Street for the University System of Maryland Education Center. It is to open next January.

Maher said construction on a city project adjacent to the education center, a new downtown park, should begin this summer or in the fall.

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Creation of the park, including construction of an outdoor stage, is expected to cost $1.03 million. Maher said the city hopes to use the stage as a setting to bring back its TGIF concert series. The series had been held on summer Fridays outside The Maryland Theatre.

The park is to be on the site of the former McCrory's building, which is being demolished.

Another major development that Maher said would enhance the city's downtown Arts and Entertainment District is the planned renovation and construction at three South Potomac Street properties.

When completed, the $2.4 million project by Bowman Development Corp. would provide 27,400 square feet of restaurant, office and housing space, Maher said. Construction on that project is to begin this spring, she said.

Behind the Bowman project, the city hopes to build a second downtown parking deck. Maher said the projected cost is $2.4 million for the five-level, 202-space structure.

Maher also said:

n A feasibility study for converting the former Henry's Theater building on South Potomac into a school for the arts will be conducted this spring. Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, has filed a $500,000 state bond request for the project.

n The Washington County Arts Council is determining whether to spend $1.5 million to renovate the Schindel-Rohrer building at 28 S. Potomac St. The arts council has raised $350,000 for the project.

n Mercantile Fidelity Bank, which recently took over Home Federal Savings Bank, plans to restore the facade of the West Washington Street building to a more traditional design.

n The city is accepting proposals for the renovation of the Tusing warehouse, adjacent to Central Parking lot.

n The city is attempting to recruit a bakery for the downtown area and hopes to establish an antiques center.

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