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Preserving business

Speaker says restoring Hagerstown's historic core could revitalize the city

Speaker says restoring Hagerstown's historic core could revitalize the city

November 10, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

HAGERSTOWN

c@herald-mail.com

Historic preservation might be the best economic development tool for Hagerstown, developer Bernard Callan said at a program the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce held Wednesday morning.

Callan was the guest speaker for the Chamber's monthly "Eggs & Issues" breakfast.

Through historic preservation, Callan helped Frederick, Md., transform its depressed urban core into a bustling city center.

Callan told an audience of about 70 business owners that the same thing could happen in Hagerstown.

"There's still a lot of neat buildings in Hagerstown," Callan said. "You drive through downtown and the basic core is still there. More businesses need to see that it will pay them in the pocket to (renovate old buildings)."

The Chamber of Commerce asked Callan to speak at the breakfast because of the growing interest in historic preservation among business owners, Chamber President Brien Poffenberger said.

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"We have some of the basic pieces in place, but there's a whole lot more we can do," Poffenberger said. "Drive down Franklin Street and then drive down Washington Street. That's one of the biggest contrasts you'll see in the city. There are a lot of holes on Franklin Street. It affects the feel of the city."

Hagerstown city officials have been eyeing historic preservation as a way to bring more money into the city, said Robert Hershey, chair of the Preservation Design District Committee.

Hershey said historic preservation should be considered as a "dollars and sense" issue for businesses.

"If you study statistics, it's cost-effective and brings income into the community," Hershey said. "Frederick has done a beautiful job."

Callan said using existing infrastructure cuts down construction costs and generates more money. Hagerstown has a lot to work from, he said.

"The infrastructure is already there," Callan said. "You don't have to build new sewers, build new streets and buy new streetlights."

In his speech, Callan cited several studies suggesting that historic preservation attracted tourism dollars, regardless of the size of the city.

According to a study conducted in Virginia, Callan said, tourists who came to see the state's historic sites stayed longer and spent more money.

Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Hagerstown would benefit from capitalizing on local history.

"We have a lot of 'firsts' and 'onlys' in Washington County, and we have a lot of things worth saving," Riford said.

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