Harford Memorial's Redevelopment Sparks Community Discussion In Havre de Grace


Harford Memorial Hospital in Havre de Grace. (Credit: Google/ Google Maps)

HAVRE DE GRACE - On Thursday, dozens of residents gathered to discuss the future of the Harford Memorial Hospital site at a public comment session in Havre de Grace.

Harford Memorial, a local icon since the late 19th century, began life as a 21-room Queen Anne-style mansion designed by acclaimed architect George A. Frederick. According to the University of Maryland Harford Memorial Hospital, the building has "outlived its useful life" and is slated to cease operations in spring 2024.

At the meeting, residents expressed concerns, ideas for the site, and a collective disappointment over the hospital's closure. Several speakers passionately shared their fears that the medical center in Aberdeen is inaccessible for residents without transportation, seeking a smaller clinic at the Harford Memorial site.

"The last two months, I was in the hospital emergency room twice - to stop bleeding," said resident Allen Fair. "Let's say I couldn't drive any longer; how would I get to [the new hospital]?"

Former City Council Member Carolyn Zinner added that mammograms and other women's health services are unavailable in Havre de Grace or Aberdeen. She suggested that a smaller outpatient clinic remain at the hospital site to accommodate elderly residents.

"We need something that would provide essential services to people - if you don't have a car or if you live out in town, sometimes it's hard to get to those offices," another resident noted.

Mayor Bill Martin addressed the concerns that the city did not fight hard enough to keep the hospital in Havre de Grace.

"from 2016 to 2019, this administration and the city council put up a lot of fight," Martin said.

According to Martin, Havre de Grace officials were squarely ignored by the Hogan administration and the Harford County Council. He added that despite the contentious history with the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health, relations have improved, and he is optimistic for the future of the nine-acre plot.

Planning Director Tim Bourcier reassured the crowd, emphasizing the early stage of the redevelopment process and the ample opportunity for community input.

"This isn't an exercise in futility," Bourcier stated, addressing concerns that public comments would not be taken into account.

"This is your government saying to you, 'What do you want to see for Harford Memorial Hospital," Martin added.

The planning director also clarified that the hospital and the adjoining property are currently zoned for residential/office use.

The vast majority of speakers at Thursday's meeting made one thing abundantly clear to city officials: residents do not want high-density housing on the hospital site.

Kathleen Lee, president of the Havre de Grace Historic Preservation Commission, said any retail space added to the area would draw business away from downtown.

"We are looking for detached houses that reflect the colonial aesthetic of our historic district," Lee said. "Not some cookie cutter houses or townhomes, or retail."

Residents added that Lodge Lane, which borders the hospital property, formerly contained housing that fit the city's colonial aesthetic.

Amid the calls for more single-family housing, Harford County Council Member Jacob Bennett suggested that a hotel on the property could increase the city government's revenue and promote tourism.

"It would be a big revenue generator for our city given that 50% of the hotel tax goes to the city government," Bennett said, adding that part of the existing parking area could be turned into green space.

Former council member Zinner echoed Bennett's calls for businesses to drive revenue, suggesting a boutique grocery store be established at the site, similar to Savona Italian Grocery in Bel Air.

Thursday's meeting was the first step in what is expected to be a long process of collecting community feedback and coordinating with developers.

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On Harford Memorial's Redevelopment to a hotel or retail is unlikely since the location is not suitable for either and no investment group is going to be interested or fund it.

Regarding city council's negotiations with University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health to have the new medical unit built in HdG and not Aberdeen was inept.

The mayor and council were ill-prepared to negotiate, tried to play hardball with Upper Chesapeake when they had no leverage and they were willfully arrogant & incompetent about it.

On Bill Martin's statement "relations have improved" with Upper Chesapeake sure they have. Upper Chesapeake is just humoring you and being nice after you losing the negotiation with them.

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One of the things that made a positive move to HdG for me was how close a hospital was.  Now they're taking it.  Where are people going to go, especially if they don't have a vehicle?

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