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Mayor and council support developer's efforts to build BOE offices downtown

March 12, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Peter Perini, president of Perini Landmark Development Corporation, listens to comments from Hagerstown City Council members Tuesday after describing his ideas for a new building downtown that could house the Washington County Board of Education offices.
By Colleen McGrath/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — In a rare occurrence Tuesday, Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts cast the deciding — albeit informal — vote about whether or not the Hagerstown City Council would sign a letter to support a local developer’s efforts to construct a building downtown that would house the Washington County Board of Education’s central offices.

Peter Perini, president of Perini Landmark Development Corp., went before the school board on March 5 to pitch his concept idea, which is a mostly glass modern-looking high-rise building that he would prefer to be built downtown.

Speaking at City Hall, Perini asked for similar support that the five-member council granted this past Friday to a real estate investment group wanting to present a downtown redevelopment plan.

More specifically, that the city would continue to pledge support of any project that could bring the school board into downtown by soaking up the cost of property acquisition, demolition and providing a parking deck.

Along with Gysberts in the straw poll of support, city council members Martin E. Brubaker and Donald F. Munson were in favor of signing the letter to acknowledge Perini’s work to date, while city council members Kristin B. Aleshire and Penny Nigh voted against it.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner was absent, which prompted Gysberts’ deciding vote.

“I believe he just wanted something to take back to the superintendent of the board of education that says the city’s aware of what I’m trying to do,” Gysberts said after the meeting.

Aleshire told Perini that he did not agree with some of the wording in his letter, which was written as if the city was addressing Perini’s company.

The paragraph he identified, stated: “While we will not create an exclusive arrangement with any developer, we pledge to work closely with Perini Landmark Development Corporation if you are selected to develop the new office building.”

Aleshire’s objection stems from agreeing to a similar arrangement with the real estate investment group, headed by D. Bruce Poole and Dane Bauer of the engineering firm Daft McCune Walker that was inked this past Friday. Aleshire did not initially sign the letter, but later allowed his signature to be added.

“I don’t know how we could say that to any specific developer and I’m not sure what that type of letter constitutes,” he said.

Perini said his concept building — somewhere between seven and 10 stories tall — would include retail stores on the first floor and then other tenants on the upper floor, including the school board’s central offices.

Aleshire said he was opposed to the idea of a mostly glass high-rise being built downtown in an area that is predominantly two- to five-story brick structures with historic-looking facades.

Perini, who said he is not “anti-historic” when it comes to the downtown, said his goal of the concept was simply to “make a statement” that there are things happening in Hagerstown.

“That’s what I would like to see for Hagerstown,” Perini said. “I think it makes the statement that there are exciting things going on in Hagerstown, and people will notice that, pay attention and maybe even sway them to consider ... downtown Hagerstown.”

Regardless of what developer or concept the school board should choose in the downtown area, Gysberts said the city would continue to have a traditional level of control over any new development through the city’s planning commission.

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