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Glendening: Hagerstown campus a model for 'smart growth'

Former governor tours downtown University System facility

Former governor tours downtown University System facility

January 09, 2008|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown is a successful national model of "smart growth" and must continue to focus on renovating and filling vacant buildings, former Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening said Tuesday after a tour of the downtown University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

The University System is housed in what once was the Baldwin House, a historic hotel on Washington Street.

"We're here because you saw the light," JoEllen Barnhart, the University System's associate executive director told Glendening as she was introduced to the former governor.

Glendening, who was governor from 1995 to 2003, chose the downtown site for the University System when he was in office, and said he now mentions the site in discussions around the country on behalf of the Smart Growth Leadership Institute, of which he is president.

The institute helps state and local elected, civic and business leaders design and implement effective smart growth strategies to create more vibrant downtowns and neighborhoods, according to its Web site.

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Glendening said that during presentations, he shows pictures of the site before its renovation and pictures of the completed building.

Tuesday's tour with Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II marked the first time the former governor saw the building since it was renovated and opened as the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown in January 2005.

Glendening said he remembered an old, dark building, as he stood in the university system's sun-drenched lobby, which features a five-story wall of windows.

The university system offers more than 20 programs from five different institutions, according to its Web site.

Most of the classes are held in the evening, and Executive Director C. David Warner III said the building is "jam-packed" from 4 to 9 p.m.

The Western Maryland Police Academy also is housed in the renovated building.

When the site was first proposed for the university system, he received letters from residents who objected to a school downtown because of crime, Glendening said. Bringing in more people to an area usually decreases crime, and statistics show crime hasn't been a problem, he said.

The Hagerstown police downtown squad is stationed in the building, which Glendening said was a great idea.

The campus helped stimulate the city's downtown, Glendening said after the tour.

"It's exactly what we predicted," he said.

Hagerstown is making many "smart growth" changes, like widening sidewalks, Glendening said. Hagerstown must now focus on programs meant to bring more people downtown, he said.

The city must plan for new challenges, like the vacant hospital building that will be left downtown when a new hospital is built, he said.

"Blight breeds blight ... that would be a cancer or blight right in the middle of an extraordinarily successful national model," Glendening said.

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