To one who has seen a city reborn, 'Growth is coming to Hagerst

April 25, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN - Hagerstown Economic Development Director Deborah Everhart said she invited Marjorie Garrett to speak Thursday during a meeting at City Hall to tout downtown Hagerstown's bright future.

"I wanted her to speak as an outsider coming in," Everhart said.

Garrett, who has lived in downtown Frederick, Md., said she plans to move with her husband to downtown Hagerstown. When she first lived in Frederick about 30 years ago, the area was run down, Garrett said. Since then, Frederick's urban core has been renovated, and it is one of the most popular places to live in the city.

"Growth is coming to Hagerstown, and it's coming very soon," Garrett said. "There's potential here."

Speaking at the meeting were Garrett; Tom Riford, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau; Steve Cook, co-owner of the Gourmet Goat & GG's; and Frankie Corsi and John Laughlin of Ridgecrest Investments.

The meeting was the third in a series that allows owners of downtown businesses to meet and share their experiences.


Although two businesses on the square - Bones & Cones Dessertery and Cloak & Cupboard Antiques - recently closed, the speakers maintained that Hagerstown has a great deal of potential.

Riford mainly praised businesses in Washington County rather than the ones downtown. Those businesses, such as Prime Outlets at Hagerstown and Valley Mall, should be used to advertise downtown as another destination for shoppers, he said.

"We are all about advertising Washington County," Riford said of the convention and visitors bureau. "These people come here. They spend, and they leave."

Corsi said he and Laughlin, who has developed properties in Frederick, decided a few years ago that Hagerstown was ripe for development.

In 2004, Corsi said Ridgecrest Investments bought, among other properties, the Goodwill building at Prospect and Church streets and put $2 million into the property to build office spaces. Today, the structure is almost full, he said.

"We have done many exciting things," Corsi said. "We love the environment. We love the city. Our goal is to bring back the bricks and the mortar to what it used to be."

Cook said starting a business downtown can be slow at first, but it's hard not to take advantage of the economic incentives that the city offers to help new business owners.

"Businesses come and go," he said. "(But) businesses stay because there is business to be had in downtown."

During a question-and-answer period after the speakers finished, Prospect Street resident Winslow Wheeler asked whether a proposed shopping center at the intersection of U.S. 40 and Interstate 70 would hurt the downtown area's economic development.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II responded by saying the east end of town would be developed. It is up to the city to find ways to create a marketing plan that will help the downtown grow, he said.

"Our plan is to capture as many people as we can and bring them downtown," Bruchey said.

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