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Architects pick Hagerstown

February 21, 2006|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A national team of architects and other professionals will be coming to Hagerstown later this year to help the city redevelop a former brownfields site, officials familiar with the project said.

The American Association of Architects Center for Communities by Design recently selected the city to participate in its Sustainable Design Assessment Team program, a competitive program from which only seven other areas nationwide were chosen. Also included in the program are New Orleans, Syracuse, N.Y., Longview, Wash., Guemes Island, Wash., Lawrence, Kan., Northeast, Mich., and northern Nevada.

David T. Downey, managing director of the center, said the program is focused on a wide variety of aspects, including environmental, economic and social equity issues, to help communities improve their "sustainability."

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While many communities develop comprehensive plans to determine how specific areas of land should be used, including a plan update the city is involved in, Downey said the SDAT process is designed to bring government officials, private land owners and others together to look beyond simple mechanisms such as zoning.

"In a traditional fashion, comprehensive planning is going to yield a physical plan, a master plan," Downey said. "What this seeks to do is take a step back."

Ann Livingston, director of the Center for Community by Design, said the focus of Hagerstown's project will be on a 25-acre brownfield - or former industrial site - by Lee and Sycamore streets. She said, in some cases, developed communities have used the program to create a stronger connection between their downtown and suburban areas.

Downey said in the spring organizers will conduct an initial assessment of the city and meet with interested groups including the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership and Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission. A larger group of experts from outside the community will return to Hagerstown for a three-day visit in the fall, and from that visit will draft a report on the city's strengths and weaknesses. The group will then hold a conference to announce its recommendations.

For more information on the program, visit the AIA's Web site at www.aia.org.

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