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Hagerstown officials take walking tour of city-owned downtown buildings

Lestitian says tour meant to 'look at the possibilities, to celebrate our success'

July 30, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Mayor David S. Gysberts and Councilman Kristin Aleshire talk about the building at 49 W. Washington St. on Tuesday during a tour of downtown Hagerstown.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — City officials took the mayor and Hagerstown City Council on a downtown walking tour Tuesday to get a firsthand look at three city-owned buildings, two of which are undergoing renovations aimed at eliminating the “barriers” for private-sector redevelopment.

The tour included stops at 36-40 N. Potomac St., which the city is renovating and plans to lease to commercial and residential tenants, and 43-53 W. Washington St.

It also included 170 W. Washington St., the former Holiday Motel, also once known as the Midtown Motel, which the city has marketed on its website through a competitive negotiated sale process.

“It’s to look at the possibilities, to celebrate our success ... and to let the public know that we’re serious about making progress in the downtown, and we are taking on projects with significant barriers that the private sector shied away from,” John Lestitian, the city’s director of economic and community development, said of the tour.

“We are not in competition with the private sector, we’re in partnership with the private sector. What we’re trying to do is to remove barriers to help the private sector then carry on projects,” he said.

The first stop of the tour was at 36-40 N. Potomac St., a mid-19th-century, three-story building the city acquired in September 2011.

Beginning in 2012, renovations have included a complete facade rehabilitation, the renovation of two floors for residential dwellings, as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning, plumbing, electric, fire suppression and various structural upgrades.

The first floor, which most recently housed Rocky’s Pizza & Cafe Napoli, will soon be home to new restaurant Thai Zap and a storefront gallery.

The second floor features two newly renovated 800-square-foot apartments, called artist’s lofts, and the third floor holds two 650-square-foot lofts.

The preliminary plan includes an application process to lease the four units to actual artists who would display their work in the first-floor gallery, according to Downtown Manager Andrew Sargent.

The second stop was at 43-53 W. Washington St., which the city purchased for $320,000 in April using Community Development Block Grant and Maryland Community Legacy Funds, according to The Herald-Mail’s archives.

The owners of Potomac Bead Co., which occupies the first-floor storefront of 49-53 W. Washington St., have the first right of refusal on the building they occupy.

There are conditions in the agreement that would allow the company to purchase the building it occupies for $225,000 within a specified a period of years, according to previous reports.

The council toured the vacant 13,000-square-foot three-story building comprising 43-47 W. Washington St., which Sargent said has drawn interest from restaurateurs, and the three vacant upper floors over the Potomac Bead Co. in the 49-53 W. Washington St. building.

The council recently voted to approve the city’s application for state funding through the community legacy program for the renovation of two of the downtown sites toured Tuesday.

The city will request $52,900 in legacy funds to match $52,900 in city funds for the renovation of 43-53 W. Washington St.

“The renovation plan includes front facade work and commercial improvements on 43 W. Washington, roof work, firewall separation, demolition of the rear wing on 53 W. Washington and rear facade work,” according to city documents.

The $435,000 renovation project also will be funded by $382,100 from the community block grant program and the sale of Public Square property as the required match for last year’s $100,000 legacy award, documents said.

The tour’s third stop was at 170 W. Washington St., for which the city also will request state funding, asking for $50,000 in legacy funds with plans to provide a matching $50,000 in city funds.

The city purchased the former motel properties, 170 W. Washington St. and 12 N. Prospect St., for $27,500 in March. Demolition began in late May on the section of the North Prospect Street section of the building.

 Renovations funded by the legacy grant would be on the brick, white and blue building on West Washington Street.

The city could sell the property, with about 7,450 square feet of inside living space, as is but hopes to lessen the barriers for private-sector redevelopment by initially making renovations, Sargent said.

Sargent noted the project is a “really, really rough” one, but he said “it’s easy to see how much potential there is.”

The buildings ready for renovation, 43-53 W. Washington St. and 170 W. Washington St., are eligible for various city revitalization incentives and tax credits, city documents said.
 
“(City officials) really are making visible change in downtown,” Mayor David S. Gysberts said at the tour’s conclusion. “I think the public should rediscover downtown.”

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