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Hagerstown Arts and Entertainment District expansion, recertification approved

May 23, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown's Arts and Entertainment District has been approved for expansion and recertification, Gov. Martin O'Malley announced Friday.

The expansion and recertification will allow the city to offer tax benefits to artists living or working in a wider radius around Hagerstown's Public Square.

"It will allow us to offer more to more people and will make smaller downtown housing more affordable for many people," Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said. "It's a real feather in our cap, especially as the first arts and entertainment district in the state."

The city first received a state-designated arts and entertainment district in 2001, the same year the program was founded, according to a state press release.

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Hagerstown's original district included the four blocks around Public Square.

The new district expands that radius about one block east and south and two blocks to the north.

During a March 2007 Hagerstown City Council work session, City Economic Development Director Deborah Everhart said the district needed to be expanded because many artists can't afford housing and work spaces near Public Square. Most of the area has been claimed by developers for restaurant space and condominiums.

State designated arts and entertainment districts offer local governments tax benefits.

Artists living or working in designated districts can receive income tax breaks, and developers who build artist spaces can get exemptions from some property taxes on renovations for up to 10 years.

The districts also are exempt from admissions and amusement taxes.

There now are 16 arts and entertainment districts in Maryland, with the newest in Annapolis and Havre de Grace being announced Friday along with Hagerstown's expansion and recertification.

Hagerstown's district is the first in the state to be recertified, according to the release.

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