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Centre at Hagerstown breaks ground

April 15, 1999

Groundbreaking ceremonyBy KERRY LYNN FRALEY / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




Dotted with heavy equipment, the torn-up ground northwest of the Interstate 81-U.S. 40 interchange is clearly a site under construction.

But what passersby have observed for nearly two months wasn't made official until Wednesday, when city leaders and Centre at Hagerstown developers turned ceremonial dirt in a groundbreaking ceremony for the $55 million shopping complex.

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The project, announced in November 1996, faced a series of hurdles, including roads, sewer and water issues and resistance from Swann Road residents.

With a number of big-name anchor tenants signed and work under way since February, the more than 675,000-square-foot strip of about 40 stores and restaurants is expected to open May 15, 2000, said Phillip Ross, director of development for Petrie Dierman Kughn.

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The McLean, Va., development firm and Cleveland-based Developers Diversified Realty Corp. are partners in the project.

The open-air mall will include Wal-Mart Super Center, Borders Books and Music, The Home Depot, Circuit City, OfficeMax, Marshalls, Pier 1 Imports, PetsMart, Dick's Clothing and Sporting Goods and A.C. Moore, a large crafts store, according to Developers Diversified spokesman Scott R. Schroeder.

The highly visible spot is ideal to serve a regional market of roughly 250,000 shoppers from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, expected to be drawn by the size of the shopping complex and lineup of tenants, Ross said.

The complex is expected to employ about 1,500 full- and part-time workers, he said.

Parcels across from the more than 1/2-mile strip of stores mainly will be taken up by restaurants, Ross said.

A second phase, adding 100,000 square feet of retail space, is expected to be built within two years and add more jobs, he said.

Retailers have been enthusiastic about the project, said leasing director Marilyn D. Coolidge.

There's been strong interest for the smaller storefronts from clothing, beauty supply, health food, optical and Hallmark card stores, Coolidge said.

Restaurants eying the complex include McDonald's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Wendy's, Friendly's, International House of Pancakes and Pizzeria Uno, she said.

Coolidge said she'd also had conversations with several steak houses and Mexican-themed restaurants.

Ray Dinterman, regional director for Borders Books and Music, said the expansion-minded company's success with its store that opened last year in Frederick, Md., fueled interest in Hagerstown.

"We felt Hagerstown was the next natural extension outside the Beltway," said Dinterman, who said he grew up in Hagerstown.

Between Hagerstown-area residents who now drive to Frederick to shop at Borders and customers from West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the company is confident there's a demand, he said.

The Centre at Hagerstown has an especially good location, Dinterman said.

The single-story Hagerstown Borders will be comparable to the Frederick store, selling music and videos and including a cafe, he said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert L. Bruchey II praised the project as good for Hagerstown taxpayers without costing a penny of the general fund.

Centre at Hagerstown developers paid for bringing sewer and water lines across Interstate 81 and for building access roads, Bruchey said in an interview before the groundbreaking.

Having those amenities in place will hasten development of the roughly 330 acres of land around the shopping center and further increase the tax base, he said.

"It's very important to us to grow, and grow our tax base. This is a major step," Bruchey said.

Among the audience at the groundbreaking were brothers Charles and Vincent Groh, whose family owned land at the corner before Interstate 81 was built.

"It's very pleasant to see progress like this. It was touch and go for a long time," said Vincent Groh, who sold some of the family's land for the shopping complex.

The road fronting the complex, connecting Broadfording Road and U.S. 40, will be named Garland Groh Boulevard in honor of their father, who in the 1930s bought the first part of what would be built into a roughly 400-acre tract.

Vincent Groh, a local developer, said he and his brother Charles later bought parcels adjacent to their father's land with development in mind.

But his father had the vision first, he said.

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