County Council votes to sell East Church Street buildings to Ausherman Development Corp. II

Photo: News-Post file photo by Graham Cullen

Frederick News Post: Tuesday, July 7, 2015 8:00 pm

By: Jen Fifield

Marvin Ausherman’s dream is to create a central place in downtown Frederick for artists to live, work and learn.

A decision made by the Frederick County Council on Tuesday will allow him to take the next step toward bringing his plan to life.

The council voted 6-0 to sell 115 and 117 E. Church St. to Ausherman Development Corp. II for $1.45 million. Councilman Billy Shreve abstained from the vote, saying later that as a commercial Realtor, he generally abstains from real estate contract decisions.

County Executive Jan Gardner had recommended selling the properties to Ausherman after the county received three proposals. Ausherman will now have a 60-day study period.

Ausherman, founder and president of Ausherman Properties, wants to use the building to create live-and-work space for artists in at least 12 separate units.

Ausherman’s overall plan is bigger than that, though. He also owns a building at 15 W. Patrick St. that used to house the Cultural Arts Center, and, before that, McCrory’s dime store. The Ausherman Family Foundation is funding a $1.5 million arts initiative at that building, called 15 Square Arts Project.

The goal is to merge the activities in that space with the activities at the two East Church Street buildings, Ausherman said.

The idea takes a lot of organization and coordination that can begin now that Ausherman has the properties, he said.

“I can’t wait to get started,” he said.

The county has been actively attempting to sell the buildings, which are attached, for the last three years, said Michael Marschner, special projects manager in the county executive’s office. Both buildings are currently vacant.

Councilman Kirby Delauter said Tuesday that it will be great to get the properties back on the county tax rolls. The properties were assessed at a combined total of about $1.21 million for fiscal 2016. It costs the county about $1,400 a month to maintain the properties, not including insurance, Marschner said.

Councilman Tony Chmelik said he thinks the sale is a good deal for the county.

“Ausherman Development Corporation is well-respected and has been around a long time in the county,” he said.

The property’s value will increase as Ausherman renovates the building, he said, adding even more to the county’s tax roll.

The building at 115 E. Church St. is the old administrative headquarters of Frederick County Public Schools. The Board of Education will receive about $1.1 million of the $1.45 million sale price, although the amount will be less than that after transaction costs.

Ausherman said although the building is old, it is a good, strong building. At this point, he said he couldn’t estimate how much it will cost to renovate.

The building at 117 E. Church St. used to house the county’s interagency information technologies division, which is now in Winchester Hall.

Gardner had recommended Ausherman’s proposal because it was a cash deal; the other two proposals, from Enterprise Housing Corp. and Conifer LLC, relied partly on tax credits or tax breaks.

The former Board of County Commissioners had attempted to sell the buildings to both Ausherman and Hogan Realty Co. in 2013, but those sales fell through.

Ausherman said he will be able to share more about his plans in the fall. He will be coordinating with both the Delaplaine Visual Arts Education Center and the Weinberg Center for the Arts. His plan is to add to what they already offer, he said.

“It’s uplifting for the arts community,” he said.

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