Downtown seeing lots of movement

June 24, 2005|By DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ


The Washington County Arts Council and several downtown businesses ? including fixture Chas. A. Gibney Florist ? plan to move from their present locations.

The arts council plans to move its headquarters and gallery from 41 S. Potomac St. when its lease expires in the fall. The building recently changed hands and the new rent will increase beyond the council's means, Executive Director Kevin Moriarty said.

Gibney's will close its West Franklin Street business as part of a consolidation, under which inventory and equipment will be moved to the Virginia Avenue shop, Gibney's owner Charles A. Gibney Jr. said.


The Hub City General Store on West Washington Street recently closed as part of a combined move and expansion to 201 N. Burhans Blvd.; Manny's Oriental Rugs & Gallery soon will move from West Washington Street to 1741 Dual Highway; and TG Designs will move from South Potomac Street to Foxshire Plaza on Dual Highway.

As those businesses leave downtown, others are moving in.

The Dog House recently opened on West Washington Street, Cloak & Cupboard Antiques is to open soon on Public Square and the One Two Kangaroo Toy Store will open on South Potomac Street.

Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Brien Poffenberger said the changes are natural for any downtown business district and are a sign of positive transition.

"I think this is an exciting time for the downtown. Things are happening, things are on the move," Poffenberger said. "We're going to see a continuation of a trend that started 10 years ago of more exciting things coming downtown."

Poffenberger said Thursday he was unaware of Gibney's plans to move. He said he was hopeful the arts council would be able to find another site downtown.

Moriarty said the council has been on South Potomac Street since 1997 and paid rent well below market rates under property owner and musician Steven Wright.

Wright recently agreed to sell the property to Rockville, Md., accountant Vijay Paul. Moriarty said that under terms Paul recently quoted him, the council's rent would increase in October from $750 a month to $1,916 for the first-floor property with an option to rent the second floor for an additional $812. The property was assessed in January at $229,900.

Moriarty said the council cannot afford the higher rent. The board of directors voted last week to authorize him to seek other properties within the boundaries of the Arts and Entertainment District.

Moriarty said it is important that the arts council remain within the Arts and Entertainment District. Having the council's facility in the district makes artists eligible for income tax credits when they sell their works at the council's gallery.

Paul said he hopes the council will remain where it is. He said he was not aware it had decided to find other quarters because of the proposed rent increase.

"I would very much like them to be there," Paul said. "I have given them different options but they need to get back to me saying this is what it is."

Gibney said he is closing his West Franklin Street shop after three decades because he no longer needs two stores.

"We're downsizing. We're going to move to our park store location on Virginia Avenue," he said. "I like the (downtown) location, don't get me wrong, but it's so big."

After opening in 1925 on Jonathan Street, Gibney's moved to three other locations, including two on Jonathan Street, before moving to 69-71 W. Franklin St. in 1972. Gibney said he has enjoyed being downtown and the customers he has met over the years. He said that competition with larger flower shops has made working from the Franklin Street location difficult.

At the Virginia Avenue store, he has parking space and a drive-through for his customers, as well as an area to park the store's delivery trucks, he said.

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