Through an informal vote Tuesday night, the Hagerstown City Council gave its approval for city staff to entertain purchase offers on a city-owned property on Public Square.
Later in the work session meeting at City Hall, the five-member council also informally agreed to authorize staff to enter into negotiations to purchase a blighted building along West Washington Street.
Both actions, the sale of property at 11, 12, 15 and 16 Public Square as well as the “strategic” acquisition and preparation for resale of 43-53 W. Washington St., are steps toward turning city-owned or blighted properties in Hagerstown’s downtown back over to private hands, according to John Lestitian, the city’s director of community and economic development.
The properties on Public Square, which are between High Rock Studios and the Elizabeth Hager Center, include the storefronts of the Rhubarb House and the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
The city had once planned to redevelop the upper floors of those properties into office condominiums, but a prospective buyer inquired about purchasing the entire structure and a confidential letter of intent to purchase was submitted, Lestitian told the five-member council.
City council members expressed concerns about wanting to have the property advertised publicly prior to just accepting the offer that has been submitted.
The council reached a consensus later to list the property as “for sale” on its website before discussing the offer further, which Lestitian said was “above market value” based on an appraiser’s income-based value of $250,000 using projected rent income of the building as is.
The building at 43-53 W. Washington St., is a largely blighted combined three- and four-story structure across from the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown with two vacant storefronts that need renovated and currently houses the Potomac Bead Co., a longtime downtown business.
With council’s go-ahead, Lestitian said he would enter into negotiations with the owner to secure the building, with the intent of demolishing a rear portion of the structure, renovating the storefronts and front facade, addressing structural issues and creating access to the rear of the building via a walkway to prepare the site for resale to a private entity.
The state has granted the city $100,000 in Community Legacy funds that could be used toward the project, Lestitian said, adding that $265,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds allocated in the city’s current-year budget for a commercial redevelopment project could also be a source of funding.
No final votes were taken on either property matter, and they are expected to be discussed at a later date.