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'Destination attraction'

July 14, 2006

This week Washington County Commissioner James Kercheval reported that a group working on the revitalization of downtown Hagerstown has decided that the city's core needs a "destination attraction."

What is that? It's an activity that lures people to an area where they might then be encouraged to shop, eat or visit other attractions.

In the times before creation of the malls and strip shopping centers, downtown Hagerstown was a destination for shoppers from all over the region.

Now, with the creation of places such as the Centre at Hagerstown and Prime Outlets, downtown shoppers are more likely to be looking for something they already know is there - high end men's and women's clothes, for example - than to just browse.

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There are hopes that the University System of Maryland's downtown campus will be a destination for many as the student population grows, but that is a process that will take time.

So, too, it might be with Discovery Station, the interactive museum in the old Nicodemus Bank building. At this point, it has interesting exhibits, but its hours are limited because it can't afford full-time staff.

In our view, downtown needs a museum that will capitalize on the regions Civil War history. Such a museum might logically be located in Sharpsburg, near the Antietam National Battlefield, but town residents want nothing like that.

Hagerstown, or the other hand, would be glad to have such a facility. There is even a blueprint.

In 1988, the state RPR Economic Associates put together a plan for a Civil War Heritage and Conference Center. Originally proposed for south county, it was rejected by residents there who feared tasteless commercial exploitation.

That wasn't the plan. The consultants proposed a facility that would provide an overview of what happened in this region. Visitors could come here to learn where to do next. Once they're here, we can suggest that they do - and buy - other things.

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