Excerpt from Herald-Mail Media:
Developers are preparing to demolish a downtown building to make way for new classroom space as part of the new urban improvement project, but school officials say there’s a bit of housekeeping to do first.
Washington County Board of Education President Melissa Williams wrote in a letter to the county commissioners that the Hagerstown Historic District Commission is requiring the school board and the commissioners to provide proof that funding is in place for the new construction — and that all parties are on board — before they’ll give final approval for a demolition permit for the historic Edison Apartment building.
Commission chairman Michael Gehr told Herald-Mail Media on Wednesday that he doesn’t believe there will be a problem.
The building is between the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts and The Maryland Theatre. Demolition of the Edison building for construction of a four-story school facility is part of the Urban Improvement Project, which will expand the theater, the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown, and classroom space for BISFA and other Washington County Public Schools programs. Total cost of the project is estimated at $30 million to $40 million. The estimate for the WCPS space is more than $19 million.
Bowman Development Corp. owns the building and is set to receive bids for demolition and new construction Thursday. The school board is expected to consider a contract with Bowman on Dec. 5, Williams’ letter said.
The school board is asking the commissioners to sign a supplemental agreement to its existing memorandum of understanding that explains the funding status from the different sources. That agreement will be forwarded to the Historic District Commission as proof of funding, the letter said.
“The issue is timing,” said Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington. “Money for school construction doesn’t come at one drop. Counties forward-fund — this is a normal process.”
Serafini said all three members of the Maryland Board of Public Works support the project and that the money that’s already been committed to it is “more than enough” to cover construction of the new classroom space.
“There’s no question about it. This should be a slam-dunk,” he said. “Nothing is 100 percent always, but the chances of this not happening is very remote.”
Gehr said he doesn’t think “it’s any major issue,” adding that the school system is nearly ready to go with the project. Gehr said getting the confirmation is a policy set by the city.
The city is one of the local government partners for the project.
“We have had situations before when developers tore something down and then walked away from it” without building what they’d promised, Gehr said. But with this project, he said, “I don’t anticipate any problems.