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Redevelopment concept for former hospital site is outlined at meeting

January 30, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Sean Davis with Morris & Ritchie Associates unvailed a proposal Tuesday night for the old Washington County Hospital grounds and several neighboring properties also owned by Meritus. The public was invited to the presentation which was held at in the Hagerstown City Hall council chambers
Joe Crocetta

About 25 people attended a public meeting Wednesday night to offer input and ask questions about a proposed redevelopment project in Hagerstown’s East End that aims to create a new eastern “gateway” into the city.

Meritus Health, which owns a large portion of the 15 acres of property between East Washington and East Baltimore streets that includes the former Washington County Hospital site, has been working with consultants for the past 10 months to develop a study and marketing analysis of the area.

Sean Davis, with the firm Morris & Ritchie Associates, presented an overview of the concept plan before the public and the city’s planning commission during a 90-minute meeting at City Hall.

The plan includes a pair of large office buildings near the existing parking deck on East Antietam Street, about 69 townhomes and a small community park on the old hospital site, plus a one-story warehousing or research and development facility on the surface-level parking lot along Mill Street.

About a dozen people spoke up during the meeting with questions or concerns about the plan, including how the land would be developed, who would be doing the development and the time frame in which it could occur.

Jerry Cump, who said he developed homes on the former Hagerstown High School site and has studied the eastern end of the city, said he did not like the idea of warehouse facilities being built in the area. He said he believes the city needs to focus on commercial establishments there rather than industrial.

“That’s what we really need in that area. We need businesses,” Cump said.

Cump also suggested creating a walking link to the downtown by making East Antietam Street a one-way route, and then engineering and building a wide streetscape pathway that would allow people to move from the downtown, to the old hospital site, down Mill Street to Hager Park and along East Memorial Boulevard and back into the downtown area.

“You could have a continuous loop the whole way around,” he said. “It would really be nice.”

Doug Wright, chairman of the city’s planning commission, said Cump’s idea was “very refreshing.”

Davis said the study of the area is geared toward providing a feasible marketing plan for the area, and then the land would need to be sold to third-party developers before any new growth would occur.

Development plans could differ from the concept plan once land sale agreements are made by Meritus, he said, but development would still have to adhere to the city’s zoning regulations and requirements for that area.

Other questions centered on potential tenants of the office buildings and the specifications of the townhomes, specifically if they would fit into the existing Hagerstown architecture.

Raymond Grahe, an official from Meritus, said the company has been meeting with developers and the community input will be shared in those talks.

Davis said the design style for the townhomes would ultimately be determined by an independent developer, but the group would urge any developer to use architecture that embraces the city’s historic brick look. The homes would be sold as entry-level, work-force family housing, he said.

Sharon Disque, an official with the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, which is coordinating the project on behalf of Meritus, told attendees that the overall project is viewed as a five- to seven-year process.

Wright said he thinks the plan presented is “realistic and feasible on a market basis,” and it could serve the city well by adding some new higher-paying jobs.

“The input that came from the community is first welcomed,” he said. “... To have folks come out tonight who are concerned and are providing good input is great.”

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