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Plans for bypass go through Berkeley Plaza

February 09, 2000

Bypass through PlazaBy DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Regardless of which route is chosen for a proposed Martinsburg bypass, the road would take out a Berkeley County landmark.

cont. from news page

Although four proposed routes for the bypass are spread over a wide area to the east of the city, they all converge north of Martinsburg and go straight through Berkeley Plaza.

Unless a fifth route is developed, the plaza would likely be torn down to make way for the bypass, said state Division of Highways spokesman Dave Clevenger.

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"It just so happened that the mall is right in the way," Clevenger said.

The road has to go through the plaza to avoid taking more businesses and houses, Clevenger said.

Depending on which route is selected, the highways department also will have to tear down between 51 and 81 houses and from 17 to 22 businesses, according to the plans.

The Berkeley Plaza was built in 1965 and became a popular shopping center.

A J.C. Penney store was a main draw for years before it opened a new store in the Martinsburg Mall in 1991. Other stores included an Acme supermarket, a restaurant, McCrory's, a pharmacy, a Pro Hardware store and a movie theater, which is still operating. The Bon Ton, which is also now in the Martinsburg Mall, used to be located in a second building near the plaza.

"That was before all the malls in Hagerstown and everything. It was the place to shop," said Martinsburg Mayor Earnest Sparks.

Business has declined at the plaza in recent years, especially since J.C. Penney moved, said Don Wood, president of the Berkeley County Historical Society.

There are 26 spaces in the plaza, and fewer than 15 businesses and offices remain, including the Public Defender's office, Berkeley Plaza Theater, a furniture shop and a couple of employment services.

Mike Manor, who runs A&A Pool and Supplies adjacent to the main part of the plaza, said he is not worried about the bypass possibly taking out the mall.

"I'd get out on Route 9 somewhere. I won't stand in the way of progress," Manor said.

Manor's store is in an adjacent strip mall known as Monroe Place.

If the bypass takes out the Berkeley Plaza but not Monroe Place, Manor said he may enjoy a boom from all the business that would be generated by the bypass.

Elwood Lane, who has owned the Berkeley Plaza Theater for 18 years, said he was not aware of the proposed bypass routes coming through the plaza. Lane said he will reserve comment on the project until the highways department makes a decision on which path the bypass would take.

Frederick Business Properties of Frederick, Md., the current owner of the plaza, could not be reached for comment.

After environmental studies are conducted on the four routes and public comments are considered, the Division of Highways will hold a public hearing on a route it prefers for the bypass, according to Clevenger.

The road is needed to relieve traffic congestion in Martinsburg, the highways department says. W.Va. 9 runs through town, and the speed limit on the road has been reduced to as low as 15 mph around Martinsburg due to development, according to Clevenger.

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