Are retail centers best use of these properties?

April 06, 2008

(Editor's note: On March 26, we asked Opinion Club members the following question: Two major developments, both involving large shopping centers, have been proposed near the U.S. 40-Interstate 70 interchange east of Hagerstown - but both have generated lukewarm or negative responses to date from the city, county and the public. What's the best use for the interchange properties?)

I would say let them do what they are doing - growing trees and grass and looking pretty doing it. What's wrong with that? Is there a shortage of places to buy foreign goods?

Ed Canfield
Falling Waters, W.Va.

The road network in the area is a major concern and finding a safe location for access to U.S. 40 is an additional challenge. There are homes of all sorts (apartments, townhouses and single-family homes) close by, with a few office buildings. Perhaps some light commercial that offers neighborhood-type services with some additional office space for the "work where you live" concept would work best.


What we don't need are more low-wage retail and/or warehousing jobs. Our government leaders are right when they enforce respect for existing zoning and neighborhoods. The guys from out of town don't care if they leave us with congestion and bungled traffic patterns.

Using the internal roads of the Valley Mall and the center west of Hagerstown, with their nightmarish intersections as examples, we can assume that shopping center developers don't have great planning skills.

Linda Irvin-Craig

This proposed project brings up several questions. Does this area really need another huge retail complex? Do these East Coast contractors have the well-being of Hagerstown and Washington County at heart or are they just interested in their own bottom line? I don't see the point of this project unless they are planning to bring stores/services to this area which we do not already have (i.e. Whole Foods Store, The Container Store, Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Wagaman's Supermarket, etc.) Does this huge project justify the estimated 9,000 low level jobs they say it will bring to the area?

Is there some kind of service Hagerstown and Washington County need that is not already here? What about putting a park there? Aesthetically speaking, cluttered areas need the balance of open spaces. When and where does all the housing and retail development stop?

Rachel T. Bowers

Could it be that the negative response with regard to building yet another shopping center is due to wanting to preserve Hagerstown's heritage and not destroy the many businesses that were the foundation of the city? We have a rustic downtown area, the flavor of small-town America, but lack nothing we need. Overdevelopment may just "throw the baby out with the bath water" if our community is not careful.

In a plummeting economy, nobody can argue how it will "create more jobs," because these places may be added to the already empty storefronts in the near future. I suggest the land be developed into something that will be a "welcome mat" to draw people to come into Hagerstown and not just stop and shop outside the city. This will keep revenue up by helping established businesses survive a harsh economy.

Hagerstown has history, and whereas Williamsburg's economy thrives from it, Hagerstown need only develop what is already here to flourish.

Kate Prado

I am writing in response to the question on the interchange properties.I feel it is a double-edged-sword issue. Part of me says to leave it alone and preserve our rural heritage. There has been so much building here that has been allowed in order to supposedly help all of us with our tax bills. only to have it spent in the wrong areas.

The other part of me says it would be nice to have more job opportunities with all of these plants closing in the area. With the cost of living in this area skyrocketing beyond most of the working peoples' means, it would be nice to have some professional offices with decent salaries and some retail to help employ those who would like to remain in the area.

Barry L. Martin

"Nine thousand jobs" really sounds great. At least it did when Fairchild and Mack Trucks came to Hagerstown. Nine thousand jobs, when they come to big-box stores, give workers minimum wage and no benefits. In the meantime, the landowners, the developers and businesses are making millions.

Did you notice that the Maryland counties that have done that are now losing population? There is a reason why people are leaving Baltimore, Montgomery, Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. Big businesses moved in and picked them. Now they are looking for a new chicken.

James C. Haught

Rather than the glut of more stores and the traffic they generate, commercial or light industrial development would be a more desirable use, since it both increases the tax base and minimizes traffic.

Charlie Siford
York, Pa.

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