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No bidders for W.Va. landmark

November 29, 2000

No bidders for W.Va. landmark



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An auction of the Gateway Building drew plenty of onlookers but no bidders Tuesday, although one local resident said he and four others may make an offer on it as early as today.

No one offered the minimum bid of $180,000 for the five-story structure on the corner of Queen and Martin streets. The only major activity in the building is a restaurant.

But Bob Widmeyer, of Martinsburg, said early Tuesday afternoon he and four others have put together enough money to buy the hotel and would know "within 24 hours" whether they wanted to purchase it.

Widmeyer is the "semi-retired" owner of Bob's Carry-Out and said his group has enough money to buy it. Brad Askin, the son of a former owner of the building, also expressed interest in possibly purchasing it.

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Neither Widmeyer or Askin would say what they would if they bought it.

"I don't want to reveal what I want to do," Widmeyer said. "I've definitely got a business I want to put in."

He said he would use the lower floors for the business, then make rental space available on the upper floors that "would go with the business I want to put in."

A lifetime resident of the city, Widmeyer said he remembers "a lot of good times" at the building, which was named the Shenandoah Hotel when it was built with individual contributions in the 1920s. It was the civic center of the community for many years.

The building was sold by majority owner Bonn Arthur Poland to the Gateway Inn in 1967, changed hands several times, and finally was sold by Askin's father to a a family group in northern Virginia in 1989.

The family paid $389,000 for it and has been trying to sell it for five years because they say it is a money drain.

Tim Luwis, who represents the owners, said he is disappointed no one bid Tuesday. He would not speculate on why no one would buy it, but did say the group will continue to seek a seller.

"It is more important to us to get rid of it than to do something with it," he said.

"It does take a lot of work to bring it up to code," said Tom Bikle, marketing director of Cochran Auctioneers, which handled the noontime event. "That's the biggest problem."

He told the crowd the present owners had taken care of many of the code violations cited by the city. But some work remains. Luwis had earlier said he believes it will take $2.5 million to $3 million to fix it up. The building was appraised at $600,000 in February.

Askin was tight-lipped about any potential purchase.

"Potentially, at the right price," he might be interested, he said. Asked if $180,000 was too high, he responded, "well, no one bid."

Martinsburg City Councilman Roger Lewis attended the auction and said he was disappointed no one bid. City officials "kicked around the idea" of buying it. But he thinks it would be better in the hands of a private developer.

"It's the last key" to revitalizing a downtown area that is starting to come back, Lewis said. "It's a wonderful old building."

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