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Renovated professional center opens in downtown Hagerstown

March 13, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Rafie Ansari, center, pumps his fist in the air after cutting the ribbon Wednesday afternoon to officially open his Wareham Professional Center at 138 W. Washington St. in downtown Hagerstown. His wife, Diane Ansari, holds the bow. Byline: Joe Crocetta
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Another step toward downtown revitalization was evident Wednesday at the grand opening of the Wareham Professional Center, another completed project of a Hagerstown redevelopment initiative.

“I think this is a great example of someone who came in and looked at one of our vacant old buildings in downtown and had the vision and the wherewithal, the imagination to see what was possible,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said following the ribbon-cutting ceremony where about 30 people, including city officials, Washington County commissioners and representatives for Sen. Barbara Mikulski and U.S. Rep. John Delaney were in attendance.

Rafie Ansari, owner of the 138 W. Washington St. site, said he utilized incentives offered through the city’s redevelopment initiative called Partners in Economic Progress (PEP) to renovate the early 20th century construction, which once housed a bowling alley and car dealership but is now slated to accommodate luxury business suites.

“Quite frankly, I walked out of the building, had a second thought and walked back in again and said ‘let’s go back and see what we can do here, what is a possibility or not,’” Ansari said of the site’s condition when he purchased it several years ago. 

The center’s tenants meeting PEP criteria can receive up to $24,000 in rent relief over a three-year period, Gysberts said.

“I do think once people know what’s available here, they’ll be calling the city up for information about the PEP program incentives to locate their offices here,” Gysberts said of the center, citing another PEP project — the Mulberry Lofts — which are 25 percent full since opening in January.

Aside from a $200,000 loan through the PEP program, Ansari said the $1 million project was privately funded.

“There’s a lot of character in here,” Ansari said. “This was a business proposition, but once we got involved and we started doing work in the building it started to sort of grow on you and become a little bit more personal as well.”

Administered through the Hagerstown Department of Community and Economic Development, the PEP program provided Ansari with incentives to make the renovations, including expedited site plan approval and waiver of permit fees, according to Hagerstown Spokeswoman Erin Wolfe.

One law firm is currently operating on the second floor of the four-story building.

Ansari is also able to offer free parking, in the garage accommodating 40 cars, to his tenants via the PEP program.

“It gives people an opportunity to just be close to all the action,” Gysberts said of the downtown location the center offers to potential tenants.

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