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City councilman moving his downtown businesses

August 07, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Hagerstown City Councilman J. Wallace McClure, who has complained about merchants moving from the downtown area, says he plans to move his two businesses out of downtown.

McClure, who said he needs space to expand the businesses, said Wednesday that he began looking for a building long before he became a council member.

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At a council meeting earlier this year, McClure complained that too many merchants were moving out of Hagerstown's core to new quarters on the edge of the city.

If that trend continued, the city would become an economic doughnut with a thriving economy on the perimeter and a depressed downtown core with decaying buildings, he said.

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McClure said he plans to remain within city limits with a move to a building at 816-818 Pope Ave., providing the city grants zoning approval.

But he said the move would not contribute to the "doughnut" problem because the 63 E. Franklin St. building he rents will not be vacant for long. It is at a good location and is in good shape, he said.

McClure's Piano Shop and 'Round Town Movers have been on East Franklin Street since March 1989, after McClure got an $11,000 loan for renovations.

McClure said expansion is not his only reason for moving. He said the land where his moving trucks and employees park has been purchased by the city for the purpose of adding metered parking spaces in the North Potomac Street parking lot.

McClure abstained from voting on the land purchase.

McClure said the city should help existing businesses and not just work to attract new businesses into the city. Insufficient parking for business owners leads to no businesses, no customers and vacant storefronts, he said.

The lot in question is being expanded at the request of the city, Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Hagerstown Committee to provide more parking for downtown customers, said Deborah Everhart, the city's economic development coordinator.

"We see that as opening up commercial opportunities, not closing them," she said.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said he sympathizes with McClure.

"Even though he's a city councilman, he's a businessman who has to make decisions based on his best interest," Bruchey said.

The move makes business sense, said McClure, 47, of 1105 Woodland Way.

"If people look at that negatively, then so be it. I'm still keeping my business in town, I'm expanding my business in town," said McClure, who said he also looked at buildings in Frederick, Md., before he chose to move from 144 N. Locust St. to East Franklin Street in 1989.

The appeal will be considered Aug. 19 at the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting in City Hall.

McClure has applied to change the space from a photographer's office to a piano workshop, piano showroom and offices, according to the planning department.

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