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Moving Washington Co. Board of Education offices to downtown Hagerstown is feasible, study finds

February 12, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • A Greater Hagerstown Committee task force identified these four preferred locations in downtown Hagerstown as potential new locations for the Washington County Board of Education's central offices.
By Chad Trovinger/Graphic Designer

HAGERSTOWN — Relocating the Washington County Board of Education central offices to downtown Hagerstown is “both physically and economically feasible,” according to a study released Tuesday by a Greater Hagerstown Committee task force.

The study examined 12 potential sites before selecting its four preferred locations and presenting them to Mayor David S. Gysberts and the Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday at City Hall.

The four highest-scoring sites, considered to have the best potential for both redeveloping the downtown as well as accommodating the BOE’s needs, were three locations along West and East Washington streets (Sites titled F/G, A and J) and another near at corner of South Potomac Street and West Antietam Street (Site L).

“The good news is there’s multiple sites ... that could be used for something like the Board of Education coming (downtown), or another corporate client,” said task force chairman Tim Henry, noting that BOE members also received a copy of the study Tuesday.

Henry said all four sites were comparable in overall cost, ranging from $16.8 million to $18.25 million when figuring the total cost of construction as well as estimates for land acquisition and demolition.

Construction alone for the downtown sites ranged from $15.1 million to $15.7 million, Henry said.

For comparison, a recent study commissioned by the BOE estimated that construction of a new central office complex at its current site would cost about $15.75 million, he added.

Henry said the study was conducted free of charge by members of the committee as a framework for the city to present its own independent proposal to the BOE.

Gysberts said a joint meeting between the city and the BOE to discuss the study will take place Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. in the schools’ Central Office Auditorium on Commonwealth Avenue.

The BOE has previously voted in favor of pursuing new construction of a central office facility rather than renovating its current 86,000-square-foot complex.

“It’s good to hear that the Board of Education has made a decision on their own that they need to find a new location,” said Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire, an advocate of expanding Hagerstown’s educational footprint in the downtown area.

With county and municipal offices already centrally located in Hagerstown, Aleshire said moving the BOE offices downtown is a “logical next step” and would benefit the cooperative actions of all three governmental entities.

After gathering data on needs from BOE officials, the task force used that information to “score” each site based on various criteria, including available infrastructure, parking areas and potential for land acquisition.

The current central office houses about 200 employees. The study assumed that new construction on a site in downtown Hagerstown would require about 75,000 square feet of space, as well as considerations for 300 parking spaces to support the facility.

As shown in the report, Site L and Site F/G scored the highest in the task force’s evaluation.

Located near the Washington County Free Library, Site L showed the highest possible impact for economic redevelopment because it would include demolishing numerous blighted buildings along West Antietam Street.

Site F/G includes the former Susquehanna Bank property at 59 W. Washington St., and blighted buildings at 43-53 W. Washington St., located right across the street from the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown.

The other two sites considered in the top four, Sites A and J, are located on East Washington Street, one on the north side in the area of the city’s Central parking lot and the other on the south side of the street in the same area.

The full BOE report is available online at www.greaterhagerstown.org/publications.

Recommended sites
A task force established by the Greater Hagerstown Committee listed the following four sites as having the “best potential” for the relocation of the Washington County Board of Education central offices into downtown Hagerstown, and the advantages of each site:

 Site L*: A combination of the property at 103 S. Potomac St., plus the property at 105-109 S. Potomac St. and 25-37 W. Antietam St.
• Proximity to location designated for new parking deck by recent city parking study (approximately 325 feet), new regional library parking area (approximately 400 feet), and the Arts & Entertainment parking deck (approximately 350 feet)
• Large lot size could support adjacent surface parking for visitors and VIPs
• Dramatic improvement to block by removing blighted buildings
• Would allow for widening of Antietam Street, improving aesthetics and traffic flow

Site F/G*: A combination of the properties at 59 W. Washington St., and 43-53 W. Washington St.
• Adjacent to location designated for new parking deck by recent city parking study
• Proximity to Barbara Ingram School for the Arts (approximately 100 feet)
• Across the street from University System of Maryland at Hagerstown
• Potential favorable availability of property acquisition although a recent change in ownership may impact the availability of 59 W. Washington St. property
• Depending on design, space could be allocated for a pedestrian friendly walkway from West Washington Street south to Antietam Street
• The proposed new parking deck could be directly connected to the facility

Site A: The lots at 32 and 44 E. Washington St.
• Limited to three owners: Two private LLC’s and the city
• Adjacent to city’s Central Lot for surface parking
• Proximity to North Potomac Street parking deck (approximately 400 feet)

Site J: The south side of East Washington Street, including 25-45 E. Washington St.
• Proximity to existing Arts & Entertainment parking deck (approximately 250 feet)
• Proximity to city’s Central Lot for surface parking (approximately 250 feet)
• Proximity to North Potomac Street parking deck (approximately 600 feet)
• Potentially challenging property acquisition for eastern portion of site due to prices paid for property at height of market

* Denotes the two sites viewed as optimal locations for new BOE central offices
Source: Greater Hagerstown Committee study, “Relocation of Washington County Public School’s Central Office operations to downtown Hagerstown”

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