Council hears results of civic center study

March 31, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Three 130-year-old buildings in the B&O railroad yard near Tuscarora Creek could be transformed into one of the most unique civic centers in the United States, an architecture and design firm told the Martinsburg City Council Monday night.

The council isn't sold on the idea yet. Members are considering how to get the money for the proposed $16 million project and whether a civic and convention center can draw enough business to be profitable.

Monday's meeting was little more than a question-and-answer session between council members and George Skarmeas, director of historic preservation for the Hillier Group in Washington, D.C., which completed the $60,000 Martinsburg Civic Center and Tuscarora Creek Park feasibility study.

The group said transforming Tuscarora Creek into a linear park for $8 million to $13 million and using the three historic buildings as a civic center for association meetings, consumer shows and spectator events is achievable.


The civic center would take priority over the park, said Councilman Max Parkinson, although the council hopes the two projects could be worked on at the same time.

Parkinson said it's unlikely any action will be taken soon.

"There's a difference between what we want to do and what we can do," Parkinson said.

Drawing business shouldn't be a problem if aggressive marketing is begun early, Skarmeas said.

"I'm not aware of civic centers that are cash machines," Skarmeas said. "On the other hand, every single one of them I know of which is properly managed and marketed generate substantial income for the local economy."

Skarmeas said the one advantage Martinsburg has is the design of the buildings, believed to have been influenced by Viollet-le-Duc, a French architect and theorist, and Henri LaBrouste, who designed the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.

"There are only six facilities throughout the country with similar architecture and similar sign. However, we believe this is the most significant facility of its kind in the United States," Skarmeas said.

The city's accessibility to Interstate 81, the Washington County Regional Airport and Washington, D.C., is also advantageous, Skarmeas said.

The cost of the projects could be offset by state and federal funding, said City Manager Mark Baldwin.

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