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City set to buy McBare building for arts center

November 29, 2000

City set to buy McBare building for arts center



By DAN KULIN / Staff Writer


Plans for a $10.2 million Performing and Visual Arts Center in downtown Hagerstown took a step forward Tuesday when the City Council agreed to provide $258,000 to buy a building next to the Maryland Theatre.

The agreement was criticized by council candidate Ira P. Kauffman Jr., who said the city is paying too much for a building for which the current owner paid $135,716 in 1997.

The three-story brick building at 25, 27 and 29 S. Potomac St. is occupied by McBare's Pub and several apartments. Plans for the arts center call for demolishing the building to make room for an expanded theater lobby and courtyard. Extensive renovations to two other buildings on South Potomac Street are also part of the arts center plan.

According to state property records, the building at 25, 27 and 29 S. Potomac St. is owned by McBare's Properties in Smithsburg, which purchased the building in June 1997 for $135,716.

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Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said the agreement is a step forward for the planned arts center and defended the cost. He said the building didn't have the pub in it when it was bought.

"You can make numbers tell you whatever you want the numbers to tell you," he added. "It's a fair price for what we want to do with it."

Under the agreement approved Tuesday, the city will provide about $258,000 to the Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation, known as CHIEF, which will purchase the building and then turn it over to the city at an unspecified future date.

The agreement calls for CHIEF to close down the business as soon as it takes over the building. The council voted 3-1 to approve the agreement with CHIEF, with Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein voting against the measure.

Saum-Wicklein said she opposed the agreement because the expense was not planned for in the city budget. She said the council should consider establishing a contingency fund for such expenses in the future.

Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said the expense was not budgeted because it was unexpected.

"We didn't plan on this coming up for sale. This was an opportunity that appeared," Metzner said.

Councilman William M. Breichner said, "We had to act if we were serious about the arts and entertainment project."

The proposed arts center is part of a larger plan to turn the area around The Maryland Theatre into and Arts and Entertainment District.

The arts center is being proposed by a committee of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

The other buildings involved in the project, known as the Edison apartments and Henry's theater buildings, are north of The Maryland Theatre.

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