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Hagerstown mayor shares ideas for downtown with citizens group

April 04, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts, right, speaks Thursday at the monthly meeting of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County held at The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Transforming downtown Hagerstown into a hub for arts, athletics, entertainment and education was the vision Mayor David S. Gysberts spoke of, calling it “A-squared, E-squared” on Thursday at the monthly meeting of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County. 

About 17 people were on hand for the informal meeting held at The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, where Gysberts took questions while speaking generally on topics ranging from stormwater management to downtown revitalization. 

Sally Hatch, 77, of Hagerstown, questioned the mayor about changing the perception that downtown is unsafe.

“Anytime anyone is the victim of crime, you’re going to have a hard time convincing them it’s not unsafe,” Gysberts said, noting he believes creating a crowded city center would change the negative view.

“I think the more we can generate that energy, that excitement, the gathering, the foot traffic, I think the more we can spur the economic development to bring about those crowds, the more the perception that downtown is unsafe will go away,” he said.

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Gysberts said he has attended about 10 ribbon-cuttings since taking office in November.

“A lot of good stuff is happening, it’s just hard for the good stuff to get the sizzle that a stabbing on Frederick Street gets,” Gysberts said.

Gysberts also placed an emphasis on unburying the city’s underground waterways and turning them into amenities.

“I think if there were anything that we could leave behind as a legacy, I would hope that it would be to restore those waterways to a more natural state, and also provide the public with more access to them and to make use of them,” he said.

About an hour into the meeting, Allen Swope, vice president of Citizens for the Protection of Washington County, took the opportunity to ask Gysberts about the Washington County Board of Education, which this week announced plans to purchase and move its administrative offices to the former Allegheny Energy building on Downsville Pike.

City officials had lobbied the school board to relocate downtown.

“That is so disappointing to me. I’ve got all the rest of my government downtown, where’s the Board of Education? Some place out in the country,” Ray Foltz, 62, of Halfway, said before Gysberts commented on the topic.  

“Well, here’s my thing, I never, and I don’t think anyone on the city council or the city government ever expected the Board of Education to be the entity that revitalizes downtown. I don’t think anyone ever thought that,” Gysberts said. “Certainly it’s disappointing. But we’re going to move on ...”

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