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City Council considers expanding arts district

March 14, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

The Hagerstown City Council is considering a proposal that would make housing for artists more affordable by expanding the boundaries of the Arts and Entertainment District.

Deborah Everhart, city economic development director, said during a City Council work session Tuesday that many artists can't afford housing and work spaces in the existing Arts and Entertainment District, which runs about one block in each direction from Public Square.

Developers have claimed much of that area as restaurant space and the future site of condominiums.

The front-runner of three proposals that were created by the city's staff includes expanding the district by about one block to the east and south and two blocks to the north, she said. The western expansion wouldn't go any farther than Md. 65 and Cramer Avenue, she said.

Everhart said the proposal would offer artists tax breaks, including those on property, to buy in the expanded area. The property-tax credits would be offered by the city, county and state governments, she said.

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The proposal also would provide an income-tax break for artists who live elsewhere in the county but work in the district, and show that Hagerstown is artist-friendly, she said.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh said the proposal would open doors because a lot of artists don't earn enough money to buy a condominium in the existing Arts and Entertainment District.

"I think it's a good plan," she said.

The city must submit an application by April 1 to the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development for permission to expand the Arts and Entertainment District.

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