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Businesses to discuss downtown

November 14, 2000

Businesses to discuss downtown



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Downtown business owners and others will assemble Thursday evening to discuss the results of a survey on the future of the core of the city.

About 210 people filled out a survey done this summer and fall. Some filled it out from a newspaper form and other business owners and employees were contacted by Main Street Martinsburg, which is overseeing the project,

Brenda Casabona, owner of DeFluri's Fine Chocolates on Queen Street, coordinated the surveys and said the desires are clear from the results.

"For the most part, people want shops they wouldn't find at the mall - and restaurants, a lot of requests for restaurants," she said. "Overwhelmingly, people wanted nonchain restaurants. They wanted ethnic restaurants, Thai food and other ethnic-type restaurants. And they wanted more quick in-and-out sandwich places."

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People also want to see more activities downtown, although the bicycle race this summer was sparsely attended.

"In part, I think that was due to the nature of the event, where you had a few seconds of action followed by minutes of waiting," she said. "But I also think that's partly a reflection of people not going downtown for events."

She said she believes events that are properly publicized can become draws.

"PR is probably not the strong point of a lot of organizations in town," she said. "People think if they contact the newspaper and put up a couple of fliers, that will be enough."

She said there was a lot of positive feedback in the surveys,

"People recognize that there are problems, but they want it (the downtown) to come back," she said. There is considerable activity already. The rehabilitation of the B&O Railroad Roundhouse complex is moving ahead. The Boarman Arts Center may move into the old Federal Building on King Street. The Gateway Hotel, formerly the Shenandoah Hotel, will be auctioned at the end of the month.

The next step is to discuss the information with business owners and move toward the goal, Casabona said. A key part will be working with other businesses to locate here, said Tracie Ford, executive director of Main Street Martinsburg.

"We need to put together a business recruitment package," she said.

The meeting may lead to a more focused effort to do that, with monthly meetings and people who can serve as contact points for information, Casabona said.

"We need to get people involved and get people working as a community," she said.

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Martinsburg City Council chambers.

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