10/15/2004

Neighborhood doubts — The (Hagerstown MD) Herald-Mail, 10/15/04

Stadium, convention center plans raise questions

by Gregory T Simmons

Steve Parrotte is proud of his business on South Cannon Avenue and hopes it will be the financial source for his retirement, and his son's.

But a redevelopment plan that could bring a new stadium and a convention center in five to 10 years has cast some uncertainty on those dreams.

"My biggest concern is how it is going to affect me. Are they talking about making me leave this place? ... Right now, I have a lot of money invested in this place," Parrotte, owner of Stadium Tavern, said Thursday.

Parrotte and others who live and work in the area being discussed for redevelopment said they were not opposed to plans that could improve the area, but they were concerned about the direction plans could take.

Parrotte's business sits next to Municipal Stadium. On the other side of the establishment is another family-owned business; next to that is the City Light Department headquarters.

The land straddles the heart of a redevelopment plan that is being put together under the direction of a group of private business people and the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, a nonprofit company created by the City of Hagerstown to speed redevelopment efforts.

The ideas being considered for the plan include either refurbishing the stadium or building a new one, building a convention center and bringing new residential and commercial development.

The private, yet unnamed group of business people paying for the redevelopment study has hired Washington, D.C.-based Brailsford & Dunlavey, a project management company with experience in municipal redevelopment projects. It was one of the lead contractors involved with bringing baseball to Washington.

Richard Phoebus Sr., president of the city neighborhood development partnership, said it would take several years to get that type of plan together, but said earlier this week he expected Brailsford & Dunlavey's study to be ready for review in January.

Phoebus said Thursday the plans are not intended to displace healthy businesses, and the plans would focus on properties that become vacant as time goes by, such as Washington County Hospital. Hospital officials are pushing plans to relocate the hospital to a site near Robinwood Medical Center.

Eileen "Sue" Titus has lived in her apartment a half-block away from Municipal Stadium for nearly 20 years. She said the area's gotten louder and more crowded. Within the past year, two duplexes were built on a piece of land across the street from her.

"Don't get me wrong. I'm for progress - but with taste," Titus said.

Debra Stoner lives on the same block, but she, her husband and daughter have only lived there for about a year. She said a reporter's description of the plan was the first she'd heard.

"It sounds like a pretty good idea to me," Stoner said. "I might not even be here then."

Rebecca Hovermale said she had lived in her house on South Cleveland Avenue since 1979. When she was told by a reporter there are plans being discussed to put a convention center in her neighborhood, she asked: "Where would you put it, for heaven's sake?"

Phil Physioc and his son, Phil Physioc II, both own businesses on East Baltimore Street next to Municipal Stadium. The elder Physioc is part owner of Hagerstown Spring Works, an auto repair shop that works mainly with large transport vehicles, and his son owns Fitness Priority, a workout center.

The younger Physioc said he's concerned his business could be affected by the sheer talk of redevelopment. His customers pay to work out for months in advance.

"It adds uncertainty," the younger Physioc said, adding that could scare off customers.

Both Physiocs said they'd be open to working with any development plans, so long as they were treated - and compensated - fairly for any relocation plans.


If, however, there was talk of using eminent domain powers - which allow governments to forcibly buy land - "We wouldn't be happy at all," the elder Physioc said.


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