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Posted August 28, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Survey: Downtown buildings in good shape

By Alex Bridges

Strasburg's downtown has fewer vacant and dilapidated structures than thought, according to a recent building survey.

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission continues to work with town staff to aid in Strasburg's efforts to revitalize downtown. Strasburg received the first part of a grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development to help the town plan the revitalization.

In order to receive the rest of the money that the town could use to implement the goals of the plan, Strasburg formed a committee of staff, elected officials and business owners to determine the needs and wants for downtown.

The committee met earlier this week with Tyler Klein, community development planner with the commission, who reported on the findings of two surveys. One survey assessed buildings and the other collected input on the downtown businesses. The town has until Tuesday to turn in the surveys and other documents to the state agency for its review.

Klein and staff used a survey method designed for buildings to assess structures. They looked at the front and an available side of a building to find minor or major deficiencies and if the structure needed minor or major repairs. Klein told the committee that all buildings in downtown Strasburg received a "sound" rating except a handful of structures. The survey identified the old flower shop at 148 W. King St., the former Brill grocery store and the taxi stand and the Jalisco restaurant as dilapidated, Klein said.

"It doesn't look like building condition is a major problem in downtown Strasburg," Klein said.

The survey did not include residences, municipal buildings or churches, Klein explained.

Town Manager Judson Rex asked Klein if the survey work included a building owned by Doug Boyd that staff and other committee members have said appears to be in bad condition. Klein said the property likely did not meet the threshold to qualify as dilapidated. But several members of the committee voiced doubts.

"That may be one we can look at again," Rex said.

The work also included the creation of a survey of the downtown's business inventory. Klein said they received a high response rate for the survey conducted mostly door-to-door. The survey collected information from more than 30 businesses to include length of time at current location; whether the proprietor leased or owned the property; the monthly overhead costs and number of employees; had sales decreased or increased over the past year and the past five years; the busiest day of the week; and their current business plan.

People's Drugstore, 145 E. King St., at its current spot for 73 years, gave a business plan that it may relocate out of downtown. The possibility that downtown could lose a longstanding business sparked committee members to voice concerns. The survey did not give insight into why the business plans to move out of the downtown area.

Proprietors surveyed also were asked what new businesses are needed downtown and what factors need improvement. Parking came up as a possible improvement with most responses. Proprietors said downtown could use more retail shops, a hardware store, a frozen yogurt shop and a grocery.

But panel members said parking exists downtown, though some agreed the signs directing visitors could be improved.

As for vacant buildings, of the 112 structures in downtown, only 12 remain vacant, Klein said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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