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Small steps adding up to Martinsburg revival

December 19, 2000

Small steps adding up to Martinsburg revival



This past Sunday, Herald-Mail writer Bob Partlow took a look at how a number of a separate projects are combining to bring about a revival of downtown Martinsburg, W.Va. What's happening demonstrates that it's not any one thing that leads to success, but a combination of small things.

Like what? Like an aggressive effort to clean up the downtown streets, including removing trees that attracted birds, who left behind unpleasant "calling cards." Like a program to push property owners to bring their buildings up to code.

These common-sense steps were followed by a look at downtown's potential done by Toronto-based consultants Janis Barlow & Associates. Barlow's message: Be yourself. Identify your strengths, build on them and enhance them.

That would fit with the current trend toward matching existing buildings with new uses, like the plan to put the Shepherd's Technical and Community College into the old Blue Ridge Outlet Center, which was originally a textile mill.

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There are two essential ingredients, in our view. One is parking, which has been identified during discussions of the possible renovation of the old Shenandoah Hotel. Like it or not, any center of commercial and business activity that doesn't plan for adequate parking won't succeed.

The other is an Internet web site that would link downtown businesses, tourist attractions and restaurants, so that someone planning a trip to downtown could easily check on store hours, luncheon specials and merchandise selections. Some of this exists in separate sites, but it needs to be tied together so those who come expecting to visit this or that aren't disappointed because it's closed, or because they don't have the goods being sought.

The laments from some citizens in Partlow's article were interesting, because compared to some downtowns in the Tri-State Area, Martinsburg's is thriving. A look around will show such folks that what Martinsburg needs is not a triple bypass, but just a bit of cosmetic surgery.

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