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Facade program hailed as Waynnesboro fixer-upper

July 27, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

The fact that three property owners applied for grants from the Borough of Waynesboro to fix up the fronts of their buildings is seen by local officials as a first step toward a revitalized Waynesboro - vibrant and busy, once again filled with stores and shoppers.

Older residents remember when downtown was the hub of commercial and social activity for the borough and the townships around it - Quincy and Washington. People came downtown to shop and to congregate.

Most of the big department stores and destination stores that brought them in have long since fallen to the malls that cropped up on the east side of town.

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Now, these three property owners - a Hagerstown partnership that bought two buildings at 2-10 East Main St. on the public square's southeast corner and James Quinn, the owner of a building at 95-97 West Main St. are considered to be pioneers of sorts.

They will get grants of more than $1,900 to clean the front exteriors of their buildings. The money is from a cache of $50,000 the Borough Council has set aside in Community Development Block Grant funds for facade improvements.

James Fisher, who moved to Waynesboro last year, is chairman of the Waynesboro Downtown Design Review Committee, the agency that doles out the money.

"This is the key to the future of downtown Waynesboro," Fisher said. "These are the first three of what we hope will be a lot of applicants."

Building owners can get up to $2,500 for facade improvements and up to $500 to fix signs and awnings.

The program covers all buildings facing Main Street from Clayton Avenue to Grant Street.

Grant applications are available at the Borough Hall.

"It's a simple application, only two pages," Fisher said.

"The buildings downtown show all periods of architecture," he said. "They show the history of Waynesboro."

"The facade program is a good first step in attracting business to downtown," Borough Councilman Clint Barkdoll said. The council is also planning to crack down on loitering and loud vehicles that have grown common in the downtown area, Barkdoll said.

"We're trying to make it better for residents and attract new business," he said.

He said revitalizing the downtown will "have a ripple effect. If we can get it to thrive it will benefit everyone, improve the tax base and provide better services for our residents." The borough should accommodate business more with grants and tax incentives, he said.

Barkdoll said that when the budget permits it the borough should consider hiring a professional to promote Waynesboro.

L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp., also thinks hiring a professional who would promote the borough, work with existing businesses and recruit new ones is the key to moving Waynesboro ahead.

Ross said he's encouraged by what's going on in Waynesboro, the county's second largest community behind Chambersburg.

"There's a concentrated effort to change the perception of downtown Waynesboro," he said. "The facade program will make a more positive image. It creates optimism."

John Leos, owner of the Candy Kitchen at 12 E. Main St., sold the buildings to the Hagerstown partners.

"The time to buy property in Waynesboro is now," Leos said.

"There's a wave of people moving to Waynesboro from the Washington, D.C., area. You can buy so much house for so little money," Fisher said.

Houses in Frederick, Md., cost three times as much as they do in Waynesboro, he said.

He and his wife, Alice, bought what he calls "a beautiful brick house" in town.

The Hagerstown partners who bought Leos' two buildings - Peter Gambino, Janet Musser and Nichole Tauler - will have invested more than $350,000 fixing up the properties, Gambino said.

Both were built in the 1880s, he said.

The first, at 2-4 E. Main and known as the Bank Building, hugs South Church Street. Its three floors cover 18,000 square feet.

The other, covering 10,000 square feet, is at 6-10 E. Main. It once housed a theater, Gambino said. Apartments fill the top stories of both buildings and all are occupied.

"These are very hot properties," Gambino said. "If one apartment goes vacant we get 10 calls. We now have people looking for commercial space."

All of the apartments have been refurbished, he said.

A coffee and donut shop occupies the west side of the first floor of the bank building. A custom jeweler is moving in the other side, Gambino said.

Country Expressions, a shop specializing in handmade country crafts, was opened five months ago by Terry Stottlemeyer and Stacey Renken across from the coffee shop. So far, business has been good, Stottlemeyer said.

"Waynesboro is a diamond in the rough," Gambino said.

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