Upkeep key to attracting business

November 24, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Six new businesses opened in downtown Waynesboro in the last few months and their owners say they moved in because they are optimistic about the borough's economic future.

They also said there are problems too, mostly a lack of parking and too many buildings not being kept up.

Most storefronts in the downtown core are occupied. Only a handful are empty, said William Dick, a local attorney and president of Mainstreet Waynesboro Inc. He said the borough enjoys a 90 percent occupancy rate of its downtown stores.

But some have been vacant for a long time and Harry Morningstar said he knows why.

Morningstar, 40, owns the Furniture Market at 22 N. Church St.

Morningstar also owns other major downtown property, including two buildings in the 100 block of West Main Street.

"The reason some buildings stay empty is because their owners won't fix them up. Nobody wants to move into a building that is not in good condition," Morningstar said.


He points to his own properties as examples.

"All of my stores and all of my apartments above them are rented. My philosophy is if you fix a building up, it will be rented," he said.

Morningstar belongs to Mainstreet Waynesboro, Inc. He launched an effort on his own to replace all aging trees and street lights downtown. Just last week, the Borough Council accepted a $20,000 check from donations Morningstar and other volunteers collected to replace the lights.

Walking along both sides of Main Street with Morningstar is like walking with a viceroy. He points to every building, knows each one, who owns it and how well they keep it up.

Many of the storefronts, big and small, need an uplift, he said. Most should remove the false facades added on in the 1950s and 1960s and revert to their original brick, he said.

Waynesboro has no downtown historic district or laws to force owners to keep their buildings up, Morningstar said.

Doug Pyle, borough building inspector, said up-to-date building codes are enforced during any renovation work. Pyle also said most residents and businesses do a good job keeping up their property.

Carol Henicle, executive director of the Greater Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce, said some buildings won't be rented until their owners put them in good repair.

"That's why they're empty, but you can't force property owners to keep their buildings up," she said.

Many downtown property owners voluntarily painted their buildings last summer for the borough's bicentennial celebration, she said.

"Downtowns are starting to come back. They've weathered the worst," Henicle said.

Dick doesn't think things are too bad as they are.

"We still have a vital downtown. Waynesboro doesn't have to rebuild from ashes like other towns. While we don't have any boarded-up buildings, we're still not as good as we could be," he said.

Dick said Mainstreet Waynesboro is still too new to do any serious recruiting of new businesses.

The agency got its start as a task force committee appointed by the Chamber of Commerce in 1995, the year three anchor stores - J.C. Penney, McCrory's and Routzahn's Department Store - closed within six months.

Their exodus devastated the remaining business community and threw things into a panic. People like Morningstar and Henicle say their are starting to come back, but it will never be like it was. The stores that once made Waynesboro a commercial hub have moved out to the malls.

"What we're going to see from now on are specialty shops, destination stores and office space," Morningstar said.

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