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Office complex planned for downtown Charles Town

April 20, 2005|by DAVE MCMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Charles Town attorney who has been involved in previous redevelopment efforts downtown announced during a City Council meeting Tuesday night that he intends to build a three-floor office complex along North George Street that will cost between $3.5 million and $4.5 million.

Peter Chakmakian of First Charles Town Group Inc. said the office building probably will be between 26,000 square feet and 40,000 square feet and will be targeted for high-tech businesses.

Chakmakian said he hopes construction can begin on the building in six to eight months. Following completion, First Charles Town Group Inc. will lease the office space, Chakmakian said.

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The building will be constructed on what is known as the Viener property, where a salvage yard once operated, Chakmakian said.

The site is in a roughly 100-acre area that includes old commercial areas that the towns of Charles Town and Ranson have been hoping to redevelop.

Officials have said they believe the area is ideal to develop projects such as office space, a retail and movie complex, housing and recreation areas.

"There were naysayers who said we couldn't do it. In Charles Town, we proved them wrong," Mayor Randy Hilton said during Tuesday's meeting.

Chakmakian said he had doubts about the redevelopment idea originally. But after seeing how a mix of business development, retail development and residential development could make Charles Town an attractive place to live and work, Chakmakian said he became convinced it could be successful.

"(It's) not only a good idea, but it's a great idea for the city," Chakmakian said.

Chakmakian has been involved in several redevelopment efforts downtown, including renovation of the Rouss Hall building along George Street, which included a new city visitors center on the first floor.

Chakmakian also was involved in redeveloping a building next door that was turned into a new court complex for the county.

First Charles Town Group Inc. also owns the former Whitmore Lumber Co. building on North Mildred Street and is converting it into office space.

Credicure, a debt counseling business, is currently in that building, Chakmakian said.

Charles Town Council member Matt Ward said at a recent council meeting that a number of developers have expressed interest in doing business in the proposed redevelopment area.

Developers have been interested in developing "high end" condominiums in an area of an old Dixie-Narco parking lot and a city public works parking lot, Ward said.

The properties can be accessed off West Street.

Development officials who have reviewed the plan say additional housing is critical for the redevelopment effort because having more housing downtown will bring customers to area retailers.

Having people downtown 24 hours a day means more people walking around town, eating at restaurants and shopping, development experts said.

Local developer Eric Lewis, one of several experts who talked about the redevelopment effort Tuesday night, said Charles Town has a "huge opportunity" for economic development downtown.

Unlike the case in big cities, Charles Town can create a unique area where people can work and live and get around to different areas in town by walking, Lewis said.

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