FROSTBURG — The mayor and City Council authorized the purchase Thursday of four Center Street properties for redevelopment.
The move is part of the city’s long-term plan to buy eight total properties on the street that will be demolished and redeveloped for new use.
“The state, in 2014 or 2015, came up with a new program called strategic demolition,” said Elizabeth Stahlman, the city’s administrator. “Its purpose is to encourage redevelopment in existing developed areas rather than putting new development on grain fields.”
The city reached agreements to buy properties 228, 234, 240 and 244 on Center Street for a negotiated price totaling $687,735.
Since 2017, when the original grant application was submitted, the city has been working with funding from the Department of Housing and Community Development — Strategic Demolition Fund and the Allegany County Department of Economic and Community Development Community Enhancement Program.
“We originally asked for $1 million, but were not successful,” Stahlman said. “So we’ve taken an incremental approach and currently have a $450,000 award from the state, with a commitment letter that we will be funded an additional $300,000 in the fiscal year 2020.
“However, our partners at the state have asked that we spend some of the money that we have now — now. We also have about $412,000 committed from Allegany County to make the project whole.”
The desire to tear down and rebuild the properties on Center Street goes back further than a few years, when Frostburg State University attempted to undertake the program unsuccessfully.
“This was a project that the university tried to pursue probably 15 years ago now, but they were not able to pull off,” Stahlman said. “In working with the university, the city has taken the lead on the project.”
Lisa VanHouten, during public comment, asked if the money could be used for other demolitions around the city, but was told the specified properties are on historic land and would have to be part of a separate undertaking.
“The purpose of the project is to acquire the properties, demolish them and then transfer the property to a developer at market rate,” said Stahlman, “so that they can do a mix-use development for commercial on the first floor and upper story residential, likely targeted at professional housing, as that is a documented need in the community.”
The city is working to secure the contracts on the second four houses, however, that is something that will be on the docket for the mayor and City Council to undertake at a later date.