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Survey says parking and construction costs slow development

August 22, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Insufficient parking and high construction costs were just a few of the problems that a recent study found might be slowing development in downtown Hagerstown.

The results of that study, which was conducted by Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership Inc., were presented to the City Council during a Tuesday work session.

Sharon Disque of HNDP told the council that more than 500,000 square feet of vacant space is available downtown for renovation.

That space is above street level and, in some cases, might cost a developer millions of dollars to renovate, she said.

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Disque said the study identified potential problems by looking at things through the eyes of an investor.

To encourage development, the city should support the use of state and federal tax credits that developers could use to help pay renovation costs, she said.

Historic Preservation Tax Credits, for example, are available to renovate older buildings, such as the ones downtown, Disque said.

Combined, federal and state credits can equal up to 40 percent of eligible costs, including professional fees, and rehabilitation and administration costs, she said.

In addition, Disque said the city should loosen zoning restrictions associated with parking.

As it stands, developers are required to provide parking spaces when they rehabilitate buildings downtown for residential use.

Disque suggested nixing that requirement in favor of building more structured parking.

Washington County officials should help the city attract developers, considering the county stands to benefit from collecting property taxes, she said.

The council encouraged Disque to further investigate downtown development.

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