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Martinsburg Mall would remain a mall, says MSU provost

November 05, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- The provost of Mountain State University's Martinsburg campus told city planning commissioners on Wednesday evening that the school intends to have a third party holding corporation operate the Martinsburg Mall after the school buys it to put college classroom and office space there.

"We want to keep the mall, the mall," Layne Diehl said in presenting MSU's request for revisions to the Mall's original concept plan at 800 Foxcroft Ave.

The school's request to allow the co-existence of retail space with university classroom and office space and for additional future development of "residential" structure(s) and a "outdoor recreation area" is expected to be voted on by Martinsburg City Council next week after the Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously recommended the revisions be made.

The commission's recommendation for approval was made contingent upon City Council's approval of a text amendment that commissioners had previously recommended to allow colleges and universities in a planned business zone.

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Diehl reiterated on Wednesday that MSU had signed an agreement with Jones Lang Lasalle Americas Inc. to buy the mall, but had no intention of eliminating retail tenants.

MSU, according to Diehl, sees the purchase of the retail as an investment for the college as well as an opportunity to bolster the retail climate at mall with the additional foot traffic of college students.

The university presented a plan that specified plans for 13,713 square feet of available space inside the mall at the entrance to Bon-Ton and includes the former Rex electronics store, Diehl explained.

The school's proposal comes less than a year after the mall was placed in receivership of Jones Lang Lasalle, a Chicago-based corporation.

In other action the Planning Commission recommended that City Council approve zoning map amendments for the following properties:

n The Station Grill at 127 E. King St., which owners Fred A. Parsons and Kenneth F. "Tripp" Lowe III, said they hope to reopen the restaurant/bar before the holidays.

n Eight properties on the west side of the 400 block of North Queen Street, which Vincent Groh requested be zoned as downtown business zoning instead of the current general industrial classification to attract redevelopment.

n The former Peppermill restaurant at 200 W. Burke St., which owner Daniel Helmut of DC Properties LLC said will cost about $300,000 for renovations to restore the fire-damaged property.

Expansion of Historic Preservation Overlay District in Martinsburg's historic core was recommended over objections of residents who aired concerns about additional cost, regulation and taxes.

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