Why parking is essential

December 10, 2004

For a city that hopes to prosper, parking is an amenity just like streetlights and police patrols.

That's why Hagerstown and its development partners must push ahead with plans for a South Potomac Street parking deck.

For an area that seems to have rock under every square foot of land, the developers of the parking deck recently were surprised to find that the deck site doesn't have enough rock underneath it to support the large pilings originally proposed for use there.

Instead, the project will require many smaller pilings, which will add $600,000 to the $2 million-plus project.

It's money that must be spent because of the commitments already made to create an arts-and-entertainment district on South Potomac Street.

Plans have been drawn, developer Vincent Groh has donated the old Henry's Theater for renovation into a school for the arts and developer Don Bowman is renovating long-vacant buildings into office space and erecting a new structure that will house a restaurant.


Visitors to these attractions will need somewhere to park. There are other surface lots in downtown, but in this car-driven society, people don't want to walk two blocks if they can go someplace else and park within sight of the front door.

Over the years there has been talk about how irrational this attitude is, but changing attitudes is a whole lot more difficult than giving people what they've come to expect.

Hagerstown, Bowman and the Washington County government all seem to be on board with this expense, but we are writing this because at some point in the future, when the deck is open and the annual payment is a line item in several budgets, there will be a call to reduce or eliminate it on the grounds that it's not affordable.

That would make about as much sense as turning off the street lights and eliminating police bicycle patrols, which is to say, none at all.

Visitors to a city expect certain things. If Hagerstown doesn't provide them on a visitor's first trip, will he or she return?

Maybe, maybe not. But why take the chance? Plans have been made and work is under way. There are many expenditures associated with government that can be second-guessed, but this should not be one of them.

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