Investors bet on downtown

Real estate deals on rise in city's core

Real estate deals on rise in city's core

September 23, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

HAGERSTOWN - Real estate transactions are increasing in downtown Hagerstown, representing a rising amount of investment in the city's core and a possibility of space for new homes and business, officials and investors said.

"It's a fair amount of property that will be transferred by the end of this year, early next year. ... This is the first time that I've seen this much investment and interest in downtown," City Economic Development Director Debbie Everhart said in a recent interview.

Recent purchases and sale discussions include:

· The building on Public Square that holds the Frostburg State University Hagerstown Center was bought in August. The owner has said he hopes to attract retail and office tenants.


· 25 W. Franklin St., purchased in July, will be renovated and reopened with 10 rental apartments and two street-level office spaces.

· Nearly three acres on East Baltimore Street are expected to be sold in January to the Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, where 20 to 30 moderate-income or upscale town houses would be built.

· The Tusing warehouse on the city's Central Lot off North Potomac Street is being considered for purchase from the city. The proposed purchasers have said they would like to bring a restaurant and either office space or apartments.

Everhart said she knew of about eight other properties on which purchase options had been signed. She declined to say which properties those were, citing business confidentiality.

Michael Heyser, the city's building inspector, said it's hard not to notice the increase in activity.

"It's much, much more than an uptick. It's an explosion," Heyser said.

Heyser said there have been a flood of phone calls to his office by people asking about the city's codes and inspection process. He said he expects many of those phone calls to become written applications.

Joyce Palmer, a private investor from Washington, D.C., said she and her investing partner bought their first building in Hagerstown, at 25 W. Washington St., in July.

In addition to the recorded purchase price of $395,000 for the building, according to state tax records, Palmer said she expects to sink about $200,000 in upgrades to the building before it opens. She said the expenditures seem worth it.

"There's a lot of economic development going on in Hagerstown .... I think they're trying to bring it back to what it once was," Palmer said. Palmer, who has family in nearby Martinsburg, W.Va., said she has watched the economic growth of Western Maryland.

"It's continued to move north. I figured, eventually, it has to get to Hagerstown," Palmer said.

Alan Feinberg, a Frederick, Md., investor said he and his partner bought a building at 141 S. Potomac St. this past spring. He said it will have office space on the ground floor, and the top two floors will become a condominium.

"It's a beautiful building and that's what attracted us," Feinberg said. He said with some work, he thinks he can turn a profit.

"Downtown is valuable. It's going to get much more valuable," Feinberg said.

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