PACE 2024: Officials say housing critical for growth

Jan. 19—CUMBERLAND — Comptroller Brooke E. Lierman said Allegany County will benefit from having an updated housing stock as it is a critical component of attracting people to the area.

Lierman spoke with the media while attending the 2024 PACE Reception held Thursday at the Westin Hotel in Annapolis. PACE — an acronym for Positive Attitudes Change Everything — is an annual event where elected officials and administrators from Western Maryland are given the opportunity to meet with top state-level officials to discuss needs for the upcoming year.

"The lower cost of living in Mountain Maryland as opposed to other places in the state will attract people," Lierman told the Times-News. "There will be challenges. There are housing stock shortages and transportation challenges, so we need to make sure we are thinking strategically on how to address those."

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss and City Councilwoman Laurie Marchini also attended the PACE Reception. Marchini said housing is a critical factor for anyone relocating.

"When you have an attractive job here, your next thing — especially if you have children — you want a comfortable house and good schools," said Marchini. "We know we have a good school system. We have blue ribbon schools in our community.

"We know through our housing study that we need housing, and particularly new housing," she added. "Whether they are renting or buying, they want new housing. It can't happen soon enough."

Morriss said apartments that have become available downtown are rented quickly. He pointed to the McMullen Building, The Rosenbaum and Windsor Castle.

"They are very well received," said Morriss. "They are renting quickly and we think it is a proof of concept."

Morriss said two major housing projects at the former Allegany High School site and the former Memorial Hospital site will be a great addition to the city's housing stock.

"There are two sites where you will see some of the first real construction in housing that we've had in a while," said Morriss.

The former Allegany High site on Sedgwick Street will be a 113-unit subdivision, while the former Memorial Hospital site could add anywhere from 125 to 250 units, including apartment units.

The city has been in negotiations with partners Paul Kelly Jr. and RAZ Development of Bethesda on a development deal for the Memorial Hospital site. The Cumberland Economic Development Corp. entered into a contract on Feb. 1 with RAZ to begin laying the groundwork for a residential housing complex on the 9-acre tract.

However, a final formal contract with the mayor and City Council has yet to be signed between the city and Kelly and partner RAZ Development.

"We are working with the developer there to see if we can come up with an agreement on exactly what the plans will be there," said Morriss. "It is taking a little longer than we thought. It is not quite working as well as we hoped it would. But we are still working our way through that."

Lierman remains optimistic for Western Maryland's future.

"I'm bullish on Mountain Maryland," said Lierman. "From DelFest, to waterfront in Cumberland and the great stuff happening in Hagerstown and the new stadium. We are seeing some positive developments.

"The outdoor economy in Mountain Maryland is really important as well. I'm excited about the future there."

Greg Larry is a reporter at the Cumberland Times-News. To reach him, call 304-639-4951, email glarry@times-news.com and follow him on Twitter @GregLarryCTN.