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3 developers of Martinsburg-area projects apply for stimulus program

December 30, 2009|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. -- Developers of three Martinsburg-area projects have submitted their plans to the Berkeley County Commission, which is expected to decide by Jan. 28 whether to allow the private interests to take advantage of a federal stimulus bond program.

The proposals submitted by the county's 4 p.m. deadline on Wednesday are a second retail project near The Commons shopping plaza, the Meridian Pointe/Lutz Avenue projects in the city's north end and The Living Room church's plans for a recreation/education center off Rock Cliff Drive, County Administrator Deborah Hammond said.

A committee formed to advise the county commission on the proposals is scheduled to meet next week, Hammond said. As part of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) legislation, the federal government made millions of dollars in bonds available for job-creating development projects in counties hardest hit by the economic downturn. The bonds must be repaid, but come with a low interest rate.

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There is $18.4 million available for private-sector projects in Berkeley County and another $12.3 million for public projects. The county's deadline for deciding bond-financed proposals for the latter is the end of February.

The proposals submitted by the private developers were expected to include three to five years of financial data to support repayment of bonds; a business plan that shows a revenue stream to support bond repayment, number of permanent jobs created, average salary of workers, risk of potential job loss, construction jobs, quality of life and environmental impact and anticipated investment and tax revenue for the county; and how quickly the project would be under construction.

Hammond said copies of the proposals would be released for review after the commission was provided copies of the submissions.

Meridian Pointe was proposed to City of Martinsburg planners in 2007 as a 54-acre development that would become a new "gateway" of economic and residential development in the city's northern end.

South of Edwin Miller Boulevard, the project vision initially included plans for 400,000 square feet of office and retail space and more than 500 residential units to be built along a road to connect the yet-to-be built Raleigh Street Extension with Lutz Avenue.

Sketch plans for The Living Room's multimillion-dollar church worship and education center off Rock Cliff Drive along Interstate 81 were approved earlier this month by the Berkeley County Planning Commission.

The Rev. Kevin Green, 44, and his wife, Beth, are pastors of The Living Room, a Wave Network affiliate church in the former Heilig-Meyers furniture store in the Berkeley Plaza shopping center.

Green told the planning commission at a public hearing that his plans call for a 49,000-square-foot civic center that will anchor the campus. With a seating capacity of 3,000, the civic center is envisioned to become a venue for concerts, from Christian to country, for major fundraisers, and will be the area's only convention center, in addition to serving as The Living Room's main worship space.

Green had said the building will be an "edgy, modern-style" structure that can be used for area public school graduations, by the county recreation department and as a place for the performing arts. It will have state-of-the-art theatrical and concert lighting and sound systems. It also would have an NCAA-regulation basketball court. The complex will include eight dormitory houses and a 35,000-square-foot student life center.

The Orchard Park Retail Development project was submitted by John Abernathy of AIG Baker, the developer of The Commons shopping center off Exit 12 of Interstate 81 just south of Martinsburg's city limits.

Hammond said the new retail project is proposed to open near The Commons, which opened this summer.

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