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Builder ready to roll on Coast Guard facility

November 02, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Martinsburg's planning commissioners on Wednesday evening got a closer look at two major developments being planned for the city's western and northern ends and leading agents for both projects expressed a sense of urgency to get them started.

"We need to begin site development activities by mid-December," said E. Brice Shearburn of JDL Castle Corp., the firm selected to build a three-story, 52,000-square-foot facility for the U.S. Coast Guard National Maritime Center off Edwin Miller Boulevard and the proposed Raleigh Street extension.

Shearburn also thanked city officials for earmarking any business and occupation taxes collected from the project to support infrastructure for the facility. That decision was made by city leaders within the last several months to "level the playing field" with Berkeley County in hopes of attracting the project, City Engineer Michael Covell said. The county does not collect the tax.

Shearburn's presentation about construction of a secure facility with security gates and decorative fencing for about 200 "office-type" U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees came after Taylor O. Chess, Regency Centers' vice president of investments, presented preliminary plans for Martinsburg Town Center, a 75-acre retail shopping center proposed along the western side of Interstate 81 between W.Va. 45 and West King Street.

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"We would love to start it in February or early March," Chess said. "We would like to see this project open in late summer of 2008."

Chess later clarified that "open" meant at least the completion of the larger anchor stores, which will allow for the others open at a later time.

At least three anchor stores will be committed to the project "before we put a shovel in the ground," Chess said.

Commissioner Peter "Steve" Hartmann aired concerns that the shopping center development failed to jibe with the city's comprehensive plan for the west end, noting the guiding document for development envisioned "pocket parks," a pedestrian trail and to assist with management of stormwater.

City Engineer Michael Covell said Hartmann's concerns were meritorious, but premature.

"It's our full intent that this project contributes to the goals of the comprehensive plan," said Covell, noting the developer had seen the city's comprehensive plan for what is known as the "West Side."

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