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Group plans 'upper-end' town homes downtown

February 03, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

HALFWAY - A plan to build about 30 town houses on East Baltimore Street could open doors for future downtown projects, the president of a community development organization said Wednesday morning.

"This one has to work right," Richard W. Phoebus Sr., the president of the nonprofit Hagerstown Neighborhood Development Partnership, told business leaders gathered at the Plaza Hotel in Halfway.

As the keynote speaker at a Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce "Eggs & Issues" breakfast, Phoebus announced that the partnership recently purchased, for $1 million, almost 3 acres on East Baltimore Street to build town houses.

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Phoebus said the partnership also hopes to buy the car wash building on Jonathan Street and build three or four town houses there.

"We feel there's an imbalance in the housing in the city of Hagerstown," Phoebus said of the East Baltimore Street project. "The imbalance is there isn't any upper-end housing."

The purchase, which became final on Jan. 20, allows the partnership to develop the property in the next year to 18 months, he said.

Phoebus said the rationale for the choice was: "We need to find a city block which we can tear out and create a whole new neighborhood."

This is the first project for the partnership, which formed to work on residential and commercial development in the city.

The Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation, or CHIEF, provided the financing for the deal, then assigned ownership to the partnership, said Phoebus, who is also CHIEF's president.

Phoebus said five major developers - none from Hagerstown - have been in his office in recent weeks to talk about building the town homes.

Phoebus said his initial thought was that the homes would sell for $175,000 each, but said a developer told him he's crazy to ask for less than $300,000.

"My guess is $250,000 and up," he said. "People in this room have said they'd talk about (working on the project)."

The partnership expects to put out a request for proposals in the next 30 days, he said.

Massey Auto Body is on part of the property now, but is scheduled to leave in September, according to Phoebus.

Phoebus said the nearby Zion Baptist Church was interested in buying the car wash property for a parking lot, but the price - $275,000 - was too high.

Instead, the partnership plans to buy the property, build three or four lower-end town homes and allow the church to use some of the land for parking, Phoebus said.

CHIEF might be needed again to provide financing, but it's not clear yet, he said.

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