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Developer pitches potential new site for Washington Co. school offices

March 05, 2013|By DAVE McMILLION | julieg@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Hagerstown developer Peter Perini told the Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday that his company was interested in developing a building in downtown Hagerstown to house multiple tenants, including new administrative offices for the school system.

The Board of Education also heard about the police presence downtown from Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman as school system officials continue to listen to proposals for new administrative offices.

On Tuesday morning, the City of Hagerstown continued its effort to get the school board to move its offices downtown, presenting a video during the State of the City address that featured a rendering of a new office building in the unit block of West Washington Street.

The school board decided on Jan. 29 not to renovate its aging Central Office on Commonwealth Avenue and, on Feb. 19, entered into a $5.5 million purchase agreement for the former Allegheny Energy headquarters on Downsville Pike.

The school system has not actually purchased the Downsville Pike property, which is about 44 acres and includes a large office building. The purchase agreement gives the school system 45 days to evaluate the condition of the property, with a chance to extend that period by 33 days at a cost of $50,000.

The 45-day window of opportunity ends April 5, Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said after Tuesday’s board meeting.

The board has a business meeting on April 2, so a March 26 work session has been scheduled for staff to present information and a recommendation regarding the Downsville Pike property, Wilcox said.

There’s still a chance at least one other development group could make a pitch to the school board, Wilcox said, but he wasn’t sure that group was ready.

Perini, president of Perini Landmark Development Corporation, provided two conceptual renderings of a tall modern-looking office building with a mostly glass exterior.

The concept would have retail stores on the first floor, Perini said. Perini said he was talking to other organizations, including a government agency, about becoming tenants.

Perini said project developers anticipate a public-private partnership with a traditional landlord-tenant model. That would relieve the school system from maintenance concerns for its administrative offices, he said.

Perini told the board he wanted to secure leases for at least 60 percent to 65 percent of the building prior to development, he said. The initial idea is a building in the neighborhood of 360,000 square feet and 10 stories high, the same height as the Alexander House on Public Square, Perini said. The building could end up being seven stories, depending on how successful the company is securing tenants, he said.

Perini said he had a downtown site in mind, but he wouldn’t identify the specific site because he had not yet shared it with the school board.

Perini will meet with Wilcox, and might meet with the school board on March 19 in closed session to discuss proprietary information regarding the project, Wilcox said.

Perini said his family developed the IBM building on Dual Highway, the Department of Social Services building on North Potomac Street, and the Magnolia office building near Valley Mall.

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