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Parking deck called 'critical for downtown redevelopment'

April 21, 2005|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Mike Duffy, who plans to open a restaurant on South Potomac Street, said he is depending on the construction of a new public parking garage that has begun a few doors down from him to help his business.

"This means everything," Duffy said Wednesday afternoon. "It's a major factor for the success of the restaurant, I'm sure."

Duffy was in the audience along South Potomac Street as officials from the City of Hagerstown and Washington County took a few minutes Wednesday to officially mark the beginning of construction on the Arts and Entertainment District Parking Deck.

The $3.1 million structure will have 195 parking spaces. The five-story garage will stand behind buildings that face South Potomac Street and will be accessible from East Washington Street and South Locust Street.

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Construction has begun, but the work is still in its initial stages. Construction crews have graded the space and begun installing weight-supporting pilings in the ground, City Engineer Rodney Tissue said.

Once the groundwork is laid, officials expect work on the parking area to begin in July. The garage should be completed sometime in August. Tissue said that once touch-up measures are completed, the garage could open in December.

Officials who spoke Wednesday at the groundbreaking ceremony said the parking structure was important for both the city and the surrounding area as a way to improve local commerce.

"This is a day that we've been looking forward to for a long, long time," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said.

The deck construction is "critical for downtown redevelopment," Washington County Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said. "I congratulate the mayor and council for their foresight."

The County Commissioners have approved $600,000 for the project, while the city is paying for most of the work. Bowman Development Corp. also is contributing money.

The officials gathered Wednesday stood on a dirt lot with a fence backdrop, behind which construction crews dug and pounded with heavy equipment. The dirt lot, owned by Bowman Development Corp., eventually will hold a building with retail and office space.

Donald Bowman, the developer of the $2 million-plus commercial project next to the parking deck, also spoke Wednesday.

He said he wanted to correct some perceptions about Hagerstown. He said he's heard people say the garage is part of the beginning of progress for the city's renewal. Bowman, however, said renewal already has begun.

"I think the project is a main, major step in keeping the momentum going," Bowman said. Hagerstown is "really a pretty nice place. I think we have a lot to be proud of."

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