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Hagerstown City Council takes steps to buy downtown building

June 07, 2011|By KATE S. ALEXANDER | kate.alexander@herald-mail.com
  • The Hagerstown City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday to purchase the building at 36-40 N. Potomac St. for $230,000. It will vote on the ordinance at its June 21 meeting.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

A deteriorating building on North Potomac Street could soon come under City of Hagerstown ownership.

The Hagerstown City Council introduced an ordinance Tuesday to purchase the building at 36-40 N. Potomac St. for $230,000. It will vote on the ordinance at its June 21 meeting.

The building, which is home to Rocky's Pizza and Cafe Napoli at 40 N. Potomac St., is a "blight," said John Lestitian, director of community and economic development.

Just a few doors down from City Hall, its outside is marked by a torn awning, a plywood door, stained paint and a vacant storefront. In its current condition, the building is diminishing the value of neighboring properties, he said.

Lestitian asked the council to authorize spending $230,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant funds to purchase the building.

He also asked the members to authorize additional CDBG money for renovations to the facade and one of the two ground-floor commercial spaces, he said.

For renovations to the four, second-floor residential units, staff is targeting money from the state, he said.  The city plans to make the units into loft spaces for artists.

If the council approves the purchase, the city will buy the building for a negotiated price that, while acceptable to city staff, is higher than the building's appraised value, according to city documents.

The building was appraised in December at $188,500. It was last sold in 2004 for $310,000, the documents said.

While most of the building is in need of redevelopment, the interior of Rocky's Pizza and Cafe Napoli was recently renovated.

Restaurant owner Vinnie Schiano-DiCola moved his business into the space in 2009 and said the interior was renovated at that time.

DiCola said he is pleased to see the city taking steps to acquire the building and better the downtown.

Finally having an outside to match the inside of his restaurant will be a great improvement, he said.

The city will attempt to mitigate any impact on Rocky's and its customers during renovations, Lestitian said.

But any inconvenience will be offset by the business he gets from the workers, DiCola said.

Anything to bring more foot traffic downtown is a step in the right direction, he said, adding that the acquisition and renovation have his support.

"I have no plans of leaving," DiCola said of the downtown. "As long as I'm alive, Rocky's is going to be downtown."

The council unanimously favored the introduction of the ordinance.

"I'm all for this acquisition," Councilwoman Ashley C. Haywood said.

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