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Concept plan for former Washington County Hospital site unveiled

November 13, 2012
  • The former Washington County Hospital site between E. Antietam Street and E. Baltimore Street is shown in this Herald-Mail file photo.
Herald-Mail file photo

An official with a Laurel, Md., planning firm Tuesday night unveiled a development concept for the former Washington County Hospital site in the east end of Hagerstown that includes townhouses, medical and institutional office space, research and development office space and warehouse distributing space.

Sean Davis, a consultant with Morris & Ritchie Associates, Inc., said one of the office buildings could be a new site for the Washington County Board of Education, although Morris said after the meeting that he has not talked to school officials about the idea.

About 30 people attended the meeting at Otterbein United Methodist Church on East Franklin Street, which was the second community meeting about the future of the site.

At the first meeting in July, ideas for the site were written down so consultants could take the information back to use it to move forward on a plan.

Although some people at Tuesday’s meeting expressed some concerns about the success of such a project in a still sluggish economy and in a city that has hundreds of vacant buildings, Davis said he thinks it’s an approach that can work.

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The 69 townhouses at the site could be popular for professionals who do not yet have families and children and the property could be used to promote an eastern gateway to Hagerstown, Davis said.

Davis talked about the possibility bringing special attention the edge of the property near the McDonald’s restaurant on Dual Highway where the road splits into Franklin and Washington streets. There could be landscaping and flags at the spot and some sort of sign welcoming motorists downtown as part of the city eastern gateway, Davis said.

Although Davis acknowledged that much of the Hagerstown area’s development is occurring around Interstates 81 and 70, he said the old hospital site could be attractive for mom and pop businesses or restaurants.

“It’s going to be a specialty use,” Davis said.

Davis said his job will now be going to developers in the Hagerstown, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas and seeing if there is interest in the concept.

Davis said there have been some talks with a few developers already.

“We’ll probably be talking to more,” Davis said.

The concept was broken down into a group of components, including:

  • cleaning up a parking lot area behind Washington Street. The lot has various fences, parking stops and other obstacles and the proposal is to organize it into a better parking area.
  • one of the existing parking lots from the old hospital would be the site of a three-story, 45,000-square-foot building that would be targeted for medical offices or institutional uses.
  • a spot along Cannon Avenue that used to be the location of a medical staff building would be the site of a two-story, 44,000-square-foot building for medical offices or institutional uses.
  • three components involve using what had been two old parking lots and the old hospital site and using the land for the 69 townhouses.
  • another existing parking lot from the old hospital would be the site of a one-story, 36,000-square-foot building that would be reserved for research and development uses or warehousing.

The concept also includes a park about an acre in size that could include an amphitheater, Davis said.

Mary Egan, who lives on King Street across from where the old hospital’s emergency room, expressed concern about the potential height of some buildings.

Since buildings at the site have been torn down, there is a view of the mountains that has not been possible since 1853, Egan said.

Egan also wanted to know what kind of design plans might be in store for the buildings. Egan said she would like to see something like the design that was envisioned for Bulls & Bears restaurant on Potomac Street, saying it is important to blend development with the city’s history.

“I think you need to honor that history. There are townhouses and then there are townhouses, do you know what I mean?” Egan said.

Davis said he believes the concept’s design will be right for the neighborhood and will not be something that only focuses on “maximum profitability.”

For more information:

Consultants working on a development concept for the old Washington County Hospital site invited people at a meeting Tuesday night to join an ongoing blog discussion about the project.

The address for the blog site is http://washingtoncountyhospitalsite.wordpress.com/

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