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Gateway Building sale possible

December 16, 2000

Gateway Building sale possible



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A prospective buyer for the Gateway Building in the heart of downtown Martinsburg appears serious about acquiring the five-story structure once a feasibility study is finished, one of the current owners said Thursday.

"It's not a done deal, but if the feasibility study doesn't turn up anything we don't already know about, this could be done by the end of the year," said Tim Luwis, speaking for the family that owns the building.

Luwis would not divulge the name of the prospective buyer, who lives in the Washington area, until a deal is closed. But Luwis and the prospective buyer have met with Mayor George Karos, City Manager Mark Baldwin and City Attorney Oakley Seibert to discuss future development, including the key issue of parking.

"I think what he (the prospective buyer) wants to do is develop the ground floor into business space to pay the debt service on the building," Luwis said.

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"He'll fix up all the code violations. He will want to develop the upper floors, but the city needs to take some action on parking," Luwis said.

"Whether it's purchasing buildings, demolition or whatever, the city should make some kind of financial commitment."

The prospective buyer wants to turn the upper floors into office space, Luwis said.

Karos and Baldwin confirmed the meeting had occurred. They stressed that no commitments had been made by them to provide parking.

"Parking was a concern as to the future full development of that building," Baldwin said. "What we've said is, as a plan comes forward, we are willing to discuss it. The door is open for discussion."

"It's obviously in our best interest to be willing to discuss this," Karos said.

He has previously said the Gateway Building could be an "anchor" to help revitalize downtown.

The building opened as the Shenandoah Hotel in the 1920s and served as the civic and social center of Martinsburg for many years. It was sold by majority stockholder Buzz Arthur Poland to the Gateway in 1967.

A Chinese restaurant is the only current business in the building.

Luwis estimates it would take $2.5 million to $3 million to repair it.

Luwis said he believes the city must be an active partner in solving the parking problem.

"If they are not, I think the building will remain pretty much the same," he said. "It would be tough to ask somebody to fix up that building and then add the parking on top of that."

County officials may be close to studying parking as they ponder whether to build a new county building near King and Queen streets.

"The timing may be right" for both governments to work together, Luwis said.

"Parking is an issue anyway. Why not take this opportunity to do something about it?" he said.

County Commissioner John Wright said he would be willing to work with city officials studying the issue, a sentiment shared by Karos.

"There's always opportunities for us to work together," Karos said.

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