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Architecture group to work on city neighborhood project

July 13, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

A national architecture organization this week began scouting several blocks near Hagerstown's City Park as part of an effort to improve the neighborhood.

Hagerstown is one of eight places in the nation selected for the program, which aims to "create communities that will continue to be good places to live for generations," said Erin Simmons of The American Institute of Architects in Washington, D.C.

The AIA's Center for Communities by Design is assembling a team to look at the neighborhood bounded by Summit Avenue to the west, Memorial Boulevard to the south, South Potomac Street to the east and Baltimore Street to the north.

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It's "an industrial area that hasn't evolved with the rest of the city," said Sharon Disque, executive director of Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership Inc., a nonprofit organization that applied for the program.

The partnership's application estimates the size of the study area at 25 acres. The application estimates the cost of the project to be $26,650.

The AIA is contributing $15,000.

Disque said that Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc. (CHIEF), which funds the partnership, is contributing $5,000. The partnership will pay for the rest.

The city of Hagerstown is helping in other ways, such as with maps and data.

Simmons said experts in historic preservation, transportation, planning and other disciplines might be part of the group that studies the section of the city this fall. The group is known as a Sustainable Design Assessment Team.

Last year, when the program started, Cache Valley, Utah; Forest City, N.C.; Pittsfield, Mass.; Northampton, Mass.; Oklahoma City; and Alexandria Township, N.J., were examined.

This year's communities include Syracuse, N.Y.; Lawrence, Kan., northeast Michigan; Guemes Island, Wash., Longview, Wash., New Orleans and northern Nevada.

Simmons and Robert G. Shibley, a professor of architecture and planning at the University at Buffalo in New York, were in Hagerstown on Monday and Tuesday. They walked through the neighborhood and met residents and community group representatives.

Shibley said the area near City Park has "extraordinary promise."

"It sits in the nexus of a terrific park and an emerging arts district," he said.

The Sustainable Design Assessment Team will come to Hagerstown around the end of September, Simmons said.

The team will hold a three-day conference and ask the public for its thoughts. On the third day, the team will present recommendations at a public meeting.

The input is important, Shibley said, because it's up to residents to decide how their city will be shaped.

Simmons said the AIA will follow up with a conference call after six months and a return visit after a year to see how the redevelopment effort is going.

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