About five dozen building owners in four downtown areas now have an idea how much it will cost to maintain and restore their buildings in the short and long term.

The answer: Nearly $56 million.

Main Street organizations in Cambridge City, Centerville, Hagerstown and Richmond recruited building owners in their communities to participate in a new Main Street Structural Feasibility Study overseen by Forward Wayne County.

Overall results from the evaluations of 62 buildings, representing 97 addresses, are now available to the public. 

Of the 62 buildings checked, seven were in Cambridge City, 18 were in Centerville, 19 were in Hagerstown, and 18 were in Richmond. The overall participation rate was 55% for the buildings eligible for the study.

The first page of the building study produced by Forward Wayne County and LWC Incorporated. Supplied

Each owner who opted in received a five-page assessment including financials.

LWC Inc. in Richmond detailed the structural, architectural, plumbing, and mechanical needs of each building, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and redevelopment costs.

Building owners also received an estimate of probable cost from Whisenhunt Construction. This estimate detailed costs for improving buildings for commercial and residential use, with proposed repairs separated into three categories.

Priority 1 focuses on immediate needs, while Priority 2 projects should be tackled in the next two to five years. Priority 3 is work that can wait five or more years.

The analysis determined the participating buildings have a total of $14,131,538.21 in Priority 1 projects.

And that’s just for those that participated.

“Building owners that opted out of the study did so for various reasons,” said Acacia St. John, Forward Wayne County’s project director, in a news release. “Some of the eligible buildings had recently undergone updates or had been previously assessed. Regardless, we are thankful for the many building owners that did participate.”

Renovation expenses

Total renovation costs for all 62 buildings are estimated at $55,725,156.45.

Richmond saw the highest total cost of $32,088,825.76, but over half of those expenses were estimated at a Priority Level 3, meaning that they were 5+ year issues.

Cambridge City had the second-highest cost of $9,551,742.01, while Hagerstown’s renovations total $8,173,725.12.

Centerville’s buildings require the least amount of work at $5,910,863.56.

John Emerick, who owns Circle-E Clothing Co. at 801 E. Main St., said having the assessment completed for his nearly 90-year-old building was “painless.”

However, his checkbook might feel pain in the future. Some large expenses are on the horizon, including replacement of the original second-floor windows. Emerick has completed some roof repairs, but a new roof eventually will be needed.   

His 5,500-square-foot Art Deco building was constructed in 1936 for a Kresge’s store. Emerick said he appreciates its “cool details” and “fantastic” architectural design.

Emerick commands Wayne County Honor Guard, and he said a lot of its members remember visiting the draft office previously inside. In recent decades, it housed Pollitt’s Floral and Home Décor and Birck’s Hardware at street level, and Whitewater Opera Co. upstairs. 

The entrepreneur said downtown businesses have had a rough few years because of ongoing road projects, and he would “absolutely, 100 percent” support efforts to secure grants to help with renovations.

Richmond’s Main Street organization “does a great job looking out for us,” Emerick said.

Jeff Plasterer, Wayne County Commissioners president, also said he was grateful for hard work from the county’s four Main Street organizations.

“The information that has come out of this study will be incredibly useful in our efforts to redevelop vibrant main streets in the heart of our city and towns,” Plasterer said in a release. “This is yet another example of successful collaboration in Wayne County.”

The information gathered will prove beneficial not only to building owners, but also to their communities, St. John said. 

Building owners can use their five-page report to secure loans for improvements or can serve as a valuable asset when selling the building.

St. John said having up-to-date financial records and detailed lists of needed building renovations will allow investors to make more informed decisions and bring businesses into Main Street districts.

Downtown development

Understanding the needs of the county’s downtown buildings also will give town, county, and regional planners pertinent information to consider grant opportunities and can help guide funding efforts.

“Downtown development is an economic development priority for Wayne County and having the structural assessments will help us carry that work forward,” said Valerie Shaffer, president of Economic Development Corp. of Wayne County, in the release. “Whether it’s working with existing building owners on necessary improvements or facilitating the sale of buildings, these reports provide important information for future public and private investments.”

Shari Markley, president of Main Street Centerville, calls the new information “a very useful tool to continue to improve our main street area and to help retain many of our charming historic buildings that make Centerville so unique.”

“We are grateful for Forward Wayne County, LWC, and all of the funding partners that helped make this possible,” Markley said in the release. “They are true collaborators with Main Street Centerville to add to our growing success story.”

Support and funding for the evaluations came from Wayne County Commissioners, Wayne County Council, EDC, the towns of Cambridge City, Centerville and Hagerstown, City of Richmond’s Redevelopment Commission, Forward Wayne County and Wayne County

Building needs at a glance

Building owners in downtown Cambridge City, Centerville, Hagerstown and Richmond were invited to receive a free assessment that was funded by several community partners. 

Owners of 62 buildings, or 55% of those eligible to participate, gave approval for an analysis of their the structural, architectural, plumbing, and mechanical needs, as well as Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and redevelopment costs.

Total renovation costs for all those buildings are estimated at $55,725,156.45. Of that total, an estimated $14,131,538.21 would address Priority 1 (immediate) needs.

Richmond saw the highest total cost of $32,088,825.76 for its buildings, but more than half of those expenses were Priority Level 3, meaning that they were issues to deal with in five years or more.

Cambridge City had the second highest cost estimate of $9,551,742.01, while Hagerstown’s renovations total $8,173,725.12.

Centerville’s buildings require the least amount of work at $5,910,863.56.

Find the executive summary at https://forwardwaynecounty.org/wp-content/uploads/2022-Main-Street-Structural-Feasibility-Study-Executive-Summary.pdf

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A version of this article appeared in the April 26 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.