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Hagerstown City Council to consider sale of Public Square properties

June 03, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • The City of Hagerstown is considering the sale of properties it currently owns at 11, 12, 15 and 16 Public Square.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

The Hagerstown City Council Tuesday will discuss the proposed sale of several Public Square properties owned by the city, including one that houses a longtime City Center restaurant.

City officials have suggested that Mayor David S. Gysberts and the five-member council move forward with the proposed sale of 11, 12, 15 and 16 Public Square to a private developer, according to a memorandum from city Downtown Manager Andrew Sargent.

Sargent said Monday that the city received two purchase proposals for the three-story, red-brick-front properties next to High Rock Studios, where North Potomac and East Washington streets intersect.

The sale would include the 12 Public Square storefront of the Rhubarb House restaurant, but Sargent said both applicants plan to keep the restaurant there.

“We had two very solid applicants,” Sargent said, although he declined to comment further on specifics about either proposal.

Both proposals are from “reputable business people who own property in the city,” have commercial development experience and “contain a vision that would be beneficial to downtown Hagerstown,” the memo said.

City staff members ultimately recommended that “Proposal A” would be the best option to move forward with a purchase agreement “due to a higher offer price with no contingencies and also the excellent collaborative vision,” Sargent said in the memo.

Proposal A includes an offered price of $240,000, and $12,500 in capital improvements set to take place after settlement, according to city documents.

The other proposal, noted as “Proposal B” in Sargent’s memo attachments, includes six contingencies, including a 30-day study period.

Proposal B also stipulates that the city would provide five years of property tax abatement and pay half of the settlement fees, an estimated total value of about $14,000.

The names of individuals or companies that submitted the purchase proposals were not disclosed in Sargent’s memo to city officials. Sargent declined further comment about the applicants before the council’s public discussion.

Proposal A estimates about six months to complete renovations of the properties. It also estimates that the property will be fully occupied by the end of that six-month time frame, adding about 15 full-time jobs to the currently vacant spaces.

In addition, the recommended proposal stipulates that the applicant will “provide free space in his office and consulting services for qualified entrepreneurs for six months.”

The applicant also “offered to partner with (the) city on equity/loan program to bring more entrepreneurs downtown,” city documents said.

Sargent said the proposed Public Square sale is an example of the city working to turn some of the publicly owned properties downtown back into the hands of private investors.

“Anything that the city owns right now is theoretically for sale,” he said, noting that the city is open to receiving purchase proposals for property. “... We’ll look at anything. There’s no reason why we won’t look at any proposal.”

The council will discuss the proposed sale recommendation during Tuesday’s work session at City Hall, which begins at 4 p.m. The discussion is tentatively slated to start about 6.

City Clerk Donna Spickler said the council is not expected to vote on the matter Tuesday. The June 18 regular session meeting is the likely date of approval, if the council wants to move forward, Spickler said.

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