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Rehabilitation begins at Gateway in W.Va.

February 11, 2001|By BOB PARTLOW

Rehabilitation begins at Gateway in W.Va.



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The rehabilitation of the Gateway Building has begun.

"We've begun a cleanup of the building to make it look better," said Jim Palm of Plateau Builders of Martinsburg, who is working with Ben Fogle of Bethesda, Md., new owner of the five-story former hotel. "We need to do that to get us to a point where we can focus on everything. Unless you get it cleaned up, you don't see all the things you need to do."

Plateau has set up offices in the southeast corner of the building at Martin and Queen streets. The job of cleanup will partially focus on clearing up the violations of city code that remain from the previous owner.

"We can't do anything until we get the health-hazard cleanup done," Palm said. Pigeons have made a mess of parts of the building and taking care of those problems will be a top priority.

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Power washing, painting the trim and upgrading the parking around the building will be among other top priorities, Palm said.

"We need to get it in shape so we can get some tenants in," he said.

Fogle wants to rent retail space on the street level of the building. He plans to rent the upper four floors for office space, keeping the space as flexible as possible so he can work with businesses that want to move in.

The building began its life in the 1920s as the Shenandoah Hotel, built with community donations. It served as the civic center of town until it was sold in 1967. It was renamed the Gateway Hotel and remained a hotel until the early 1980s.

Palm said he was quite interested in buying the building when the Luwis family of northern Virginia purchased it in 1989. He hoped to turn it into subsidized housing, but found daunting the process of dealing with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"So it went by the wayside," he said. Then, it came up for auction Nov. 28 at a minimum asking price of $180,000.

"There was not even a bid," Palm recalled. "I was floored." So he contacted his friend Fogle, who quickly saw the potential for the building and purchased it for $180,000 on Jan. 25.

Palm said the building is structurally sound and should prove to be a sound investment.

"It needs some work, but it's not as bad as it once was," he said.

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