[re]Introducing the former Washington County Hospital

In December 2010, the Washington County Health System relocated to a new facility, the Meritus Medical Center. The original hospital location served as a hub of economic activity in downtown Hagerstown, employing thousands and attracting related private investment in adjacent properties. Spread among 16 parcels totaling 15 acres, the old Washington County Hospital crossed several blocks, bisected by city streets.

Now, our community has an opportunity to reshape a significant portion of downtown’s east side. Meritus Health and the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development have sponsored a re-use study. HNDP has a contract with Meritus to oversee the selection of a professional consulting team, and implementation of a comprehensive study.

Community input is essential to the successful redevelopment of these properties. Check back with us here. We’ll be sharing the process and information with you. And don’t hesitate to comment.

Parcels owned by Meritus Health.

Click the image above for information on the acreage of each parcel.

Clean Site? Check.

Unknown environmental conditions equal risk in real estate development, often impeding re-use of well-located properties. Meritus Health included a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) in its re-use study.

A Phase I ESA identifies potential or existing environmental contamination. The analysis typically addresses both the underlying land as well as physical improvements to the property.  The actual sampling of soil, air, groundwater and/or building materials is typically not conducted during a Phase I. If the results of this first analysis indicate a likely presence of contaminants, than a subsequent analysis, a Phase II ESA, would investigate further. A Phase II would include chemical analysis to identify hazardous substances and/or petroleum hydrocarbons.

The results of the Phase I ESA performed on the sites of the former hospital indicated no need for a Phase II: “This assessment has revealed no evidence of recognized environmental conditions (RECs)…”

Phase 1 Environmental Conclusions

Hagerstown’s Downtown Alliance visits Mulberry Lofts

Hagerstown’s new Maryland Entertainment Group, “a place for artists” within Mulberry Lofts, hosted the April Downtown Alliance meeting. Members heard from MEG co-founder Sam Little on his plans for the meeting and performance space.

Developer John Laughlin shared his observations on the financial opportunities downtown real estate offers, and guided members through spaces both unfinished and finished.

Other new businesses within the building include Jennifer Rotz Photography, Stacy Nicole Design & Furnishings, Ecton Media, Antietam Law Group, Posh Locker and Hagerstown Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Academy.

Baseball on Hospital Hill?

The City of Hagerstown retained Ripken Design to evaluate alternative locations for a multi-use sports and events center. Several of the former Washington County Hospital properties were included in the study, either as a location for a proposed stadium or as parking.

From the report:

“The proximity to downtown makes it a very attractive redevelopment opportunity that can complement the existing downtown revitalization efforts already taking place.” (Page 16.)

“While technically a ‘downtown’ property,’ the history of the site has traditionally left it separated from the main downtown district, a rift that has kept the public from considering it a widely accessible option from downtown.” (Page 5.)

Pros

  • Unique site capable of’ producing a “destination” environment in the spirit of Wrigleyville or Yawkey Way.
  • Location on top of a hill gives potential for best-in-city views, as well as visibility from major routes into Hagerstown
  • Available adjacent parking lots and deck, easily accessible to site
  • Walkable to downtown “points of interest”
  • Consistent with ongoing redevelopment plan discussions
  • Potential for adjacent/nearby infill development
  • Access primarily via major arterial roads
  • Dealing with a single property owner

Cons

  • Constrained site (6.5 Acres) limits overall site development potential
  • No on-site parking
  • Extreme site topography may increase construction costs
  • Concern about buried debris may increase site costs

Ripkin Group Cover 4 15 2013

Real Estate Market Analysis

Included in the real estate re-use study of the former Washington County Hospital properties is a market analysis. What’s in a market analysis and what’s the purpose in conducting one?

A market analysis is a study of the supply and demand for real estate in a particular market. Components of a report include:

  • Characteristics of the property
  • Typical users most likely to purchase and/or occupy the real estate
  • Demand for the various uses identified
  • Competing properties and an evaluation of the supply in the market
  • A comparison of the demand with the supply (pricing, competitiveness and a determination on how much demand the property can capture)

A study used early in the redevelopment process helps to stimulate feasible development ideas and limits risk associated with future investment. A wide variety of professionals use the data, including developers, builders, investors, lenders, architects, planners, local governments, commercial tenants and land owners.

Don’t confuse a marketing plan with a market analysis. A plan describes the future marketing activities and includes information on the property’s desirability relative to the competition, target markets, and ways in which to reach those targets. In contrast, Sgt. Joe Friday of Dragnet fame would order a market analysis: “All we want are the facts, ma’am.”

What would Joe Friday get? Click here for a summary of the market analysis of the former hospital properties.

Planning Commission – and the community – hear more

On January 30th, the City of Hagerstown’s Planning Commission held a public meeting to review the proposed uses for the former Washington County Hospital properties. Unlike other Planning Commission meetings, this presentation was simply to share information generated from the real estate re-use study and gather input from the community. Thanks to all who participated. Keep those comments coming!

Unable to attend? View the meeting here:

Park Here

218 – 230 East Antietam Street

Although the former Washington County Hospital was demolished, the existing parking garage remains. Built in 1981, the 3-story, 91,000 square foot structure includes 250 parking spaces, a security booth, Otis elevator and dry sprinkler system.

Adjacent parcels front East Washington Street and Cannon Avenue, creating a unique development opportunity. The garage and contiguous land are zoned “Downtown Mixed-Use,” a designation which allows residential, commercial and institutional uses.

Parking Deck 4

Parking Deck 5