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Martinsburg business owner forms City Club

April 07, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. ? The newly formed City Club of Martinsburg has no members, no dues, no committees and no recognized president or director.

But downtown business owner Paul C. Pritchard can't avoid the fact that he is the founder of the club, which actually is an informal forum for people interested in discussing the potential for the core of the city.

"Martinsburg is going to be a big city ? the question is whether it's going to be a great city," said Pritchard, who with his wife, Susan Ford Pritchard, formed St. Ives LLC last year in order to purchase the historic carriage factory building at 123-125 W. Burke St. from neighboring property owner Lane McIntosh.

"I just fell in love with this building," said Pritchard, who lives outside Shepherdstown, W.Va. "It's just an incredible space."

Last month, Pritchard, with McIntosh serving as the moderator, hosted about 60 people who gathered at the Peking Restaurant off South Queen Street to listen to Howard Mills, a Shepherdstown town councilman who was involved in the rebirth of Indianapolis when he lived there.

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"We have great bones here, but we have to have great heart," said Pritchard, echoing what Mills told those gathered last month.

Before moving to Shepherdstown, Mills was the chairman of Indianapolis-based Maplehurst Companies Inc., and Pritchard said Mills was able to talk about his involvement in a number of community roles in the city amid successful revitalization efforts by the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee.

"It was people, citizens that made things happen," Pritchard said. "If you don't get everybody together ... People take anything that comes down the road."

Pritchard said he has no political ambitions, and he doesn't want the City Club to be ensnared by a particular political agenda.

"Just getting people together is our goal," said Pritchard, who resides outside Shepherdstown, W.Va., along Flowing Springs Road. "We're at a critical juncture here in Martinsburg."

Pritchard believes those interested in downtown Martinsburg need to actively support city leaders' ongoing efforts to keep Blue Ridge Community & Technical College in a downtown location. Jane Peters, chairwoman of the CTC Board of Governors, said last week that a new campus site in the city was "definitely" an option being explored, and expected some movement on the effort by the end of summer.

Pritchard highlighted the success realized by Hagerstown since the University System of Maryland moved into a historic hotel complex in the Washington County city's downtown.

"I think that was a very wise move for them," Pritchard said.

Supportive of Main Street Martinsburg's efforts and other programs launched to improve the quality of the community, Pritchard said the City Club wants to provide a proactive setting for community consensus-building without obligations.

Pritchard was a deputy director with the U.S. Department of the Interior. He founded the National Park Trust in 1983, as well as a number of other conservation-minded initiatives.

"Wherever I've lived, I've felt the need to give back to the community," Pritchard said.

In an interview last week, Stephen M. Gyurisin, a geographer and planner with Advance Planning Associates LC of Winchester, Va., said once the people in the community come together, they should seize upon whatever opportunity makes downtown Martinsburg a "compelling place" for people to visit.

Gyurisin cited the former Blue Ridge Outlets shopping complex now owned and occupied by county and state court operations as an example.

"It started in one building and blossomed into all these different buildings," Gyurisin said.

Currently, McIntosh said people are not flooding into downtown for the "wonderful architecture" or coming in waves to see the B&O Roundhouse.

"We need new ideas to give us new insight," said McIntosh, who also dismissed any political ambitions. "I'm just an active participant. I just want to do my part. My whole life is here. I don't want to risk sitting on my hands and see my community go in reverse.

"There is no hidden agenda here. The agenda is the success of downtown Martinsburg."

The City Club's next noon-hour luncheon will be April 26 in the restored ballrooms of the 80-year-old Shenandoah building at the intersection of North Queen and West Martin streets. Gyurisin is expected to talk about new opportunities for Martinsburg in the context of lifestyle and business for the new economy.

For information about the City Club of Martinsburg, call Pritchard or Donna Shorter at St. Ives LLC at 304-267-4837 or send an e-mail to pritchardp@aol.com.

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