Progressive mind-set

Mayor: Changed thinking brought advancements

Mayor: Changed thinking brought advancements

March 03, 2004|by TAMELA BAKER

Hagerstown is "on the threshold of many positive advancements," Mayor William M. Breichner said Tuesday, but getting there has required residents to "change their way of thinking."

Breichner's remarks came during his State of the City address to the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center Antietam Creek.

"Two years ago, we had to convince citizens that Hagerstown would survive as a thriving urban center only if they changed their way of thinking," he said.


Calling the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center a catalyst for change, Breichner said many thought the campus, slated to open for classes next year, "wouldn't become a reality downtown."

There was a turning point when community organizations such as the Chamber realized the importance of the campus and backed efforts to get the project funded, he said.

"Since then, we've had outstanding community support," Breichner said. "And that cooperation is an ongoing process."

Breichner used a video presentation to highlight accomplishments and goals. Among them were downtown redevelopment, the completion of the university system campus and the adjacent University Plaza park, the addition of more than 3,000 housing units that were "in the pipeline" as of last month and upgrades to Eastern Boulevard.

The city said more than 8,000 rental units have been registered in its new rental licensing program and 700 have undergone interior inspections.

The video included cameo appearances by business and political leaders, including Gov. Robert Ehrlich. Ehrlich called the $1 million he budgeted for the opening of the university system center downtown "a great investment."

Also highlighted were planned redevelopment projects for downtown, including a proposed parking deck in the arts and entertainment district, and the development of a charter school for the arts in the former Henry's Theater building on South Potomac Street.

Formation of the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership would facilitate continued redevelopment in the downtown area, the city said.

Hagerstown police responded to more than 52,000 calls in the past year, the city said.

That was a 3.6 percent reduction from the prior year, Chief Arthur Smith said. Looking at national crime statistics, he said Hagerstown was, comparatively, "just about the safest place in the country."

Breichner said more "positive advancements" were on the way. And, he said, "progress is a daily, weekly, monthly, and yes, even a yearly process."

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