With a park, new homes and businesses part of a proposed redevelopment plan for the former Washington County Hospital property in Hagerstown’s East End scheduled to receive public input at a Wednesday evening meeting, Hagerstown residents offered their suggestions Tuesday.
Marian Wick, who worked as a lab supervisor at the hospital and at Meritus Medical Center before moving to Frederick Memorial Hospital last year, said the empty space where a hospital once stood could become a place that offers assistance to people.
“I would like to see it become a center for seniors, the disabled, and veterans, and I would like to see more restaurants around it,” the 58-year-old Wick said. “I don’t think retail space will work because there are already too many malls.”
Additional retail and office space are part of the plan for the area that Meritus Health officials presented in November.
Meritus Health owns the largely empty space between East Washington and East Baltimore streets as well a large parking lot along Mill Street. The site is surrounded by East Baltimore, King, East Antietam and Mill streets.
Included in the plan are two large office and medical buildings next to the parking garage between East Washington and East Antietam streets, 69 town houses on the former hospital site and East Baltimore Street, a public park on part of the former hospital site, and two warehousing facilities along Mill Street.
Erik Blythe, 39, said he supports all of the proposals in the plan, especially retail space.
“Not only would the retail space give people a reason to stay in the downtown area when they’re out and about doing things, but I think it would boost the local economy,” he said. “It’s something this area needs, and I think it’ll change the image of downtown.”
Patrick McHose, 50, said he likes the plan except for the park.
“A park won’t generate any revenue, but I think the idea of mixed businesses and homes near downtown is a great idea,” he said. “You can’t have businesses without people to support it.”
The area is not downtown, but has been viewed as a potential new eastern “gateway” to the city, published reports say.
John Mazzocchi, 64, said that he would like the entire area to become residential for middle-income families.
“By having more residents closer to downtown, the smaller shops and businesses have a better chance of surviving,” he said. “Town homes might be too pricey. I’d like to see more multi-family homes.”
Elizabeth Miller said she supports an apartment complex with a park in the area. “I don’t think Hagerstown has enough parks,” she said. “I love the park over there by the fairgrounds.”
Some of the suggestions offered by area residents were not included in the concept plan.
Doug Willoch, 56, said another hospital should be put in that location.
“The community is growing, it’s convenient to the citizens that live downtown, and it’ll help some of the overflow with Meritus,” he said.
Timothy Sweitzer said that an assisted living center should be put on the site.
“I just don’t think there’s enough here in town, and I think that would be a good spot for it,” he said. “There’s a lot of people in town that have that need, and it would be walking distance to places they could get to.”