One of Havre de Grace's biggest eyesores is getting a face lift.
Renovation work has started at the former Acme grocery building, at the corner of Revolution Street and Bloomsbury Avenue, to transform the structure into a shining, modern office.
When the center opens in November, it will be the headquarters for the Eye Care Center, a joint venture by The Hirsch Eye Group and Vision Associates Inc., which formed the Sight Center Limited Partnership for the project.
The renovation has also become a catalyst for other area upgrades, said Stan Ruchlewicz, director of the city's department of planning.
Other plans for the area include repaving Bloomsbury and Pusey streets, which border the property, he said, and a proposal to build a new firehouse at the site of the current one across the street, he said.
Harford National Bank's Havre de Grace branch, next to the old Acme, is also expected to renovate its facade, he said.
hTC And a block away, a former senior citizen center has been purchased and renovated by the J M Huber Corp., Ruchlewicz said.
The company, which makes chemicals used in foods, toothpastes and other items, uses the building as a center for training seminars.
As for the planned Acme, it will be gutted to the shell for the new 14,640-square-foot Eye Center, designed by Getz/Taylor Architects of Havre de Grace.
Gary D. Getz, owner, said the one-story building is being renovated instead of razed because it keeps building costs down, by about 50 percent.
Construction work began May 20. The contractor is LoZito Contracting Inc.
The Acme, which opened in the late '50s, was most recently a storage facility for Harford Systems Inc., a company whose products include refrigeration systems for grocery stores.
It had been boarded-up and surrounded by a chain fence to prevent vandalism.
Because the site is not in the historic district section of town, the architects were able to design a contemporary look for the eye-care center, including shining aluminum columns, lots of glass and skylights.
Getz/Taylor, which opened its office in Havre de Grace about nine months ago, has designed six other medical buildings in the city, near Harford Memorial Hospital.
The renovation is expected to cost about $1.4 million. Under a state program, Action Loan for Target Areas, the state and city will provide the eye center partnership with a loan of 10 percent of the project's cost.
The program combines state, local and private money for commercial and downtown revitalization projects at abandoned buildings.
Havre de Grace's Vision Associates, founded by Dr. Barry Fuller, will provide primary care, such as eye examinations, and The Hirsch Eye Group will provide medical and surgical treatment.
Also located in the building will be Hearing Associates, which will offer diagnostic hearing services.
The Hirsch Eye Group, which includes Dr. Dahlia Hirsch, who runs the ophthalmology practice, will occupy about 7,000 square feet, or about twice the area of its present office in the Medical Arts Building near Harford Memorial Hospital.
The Hirsch family has a strong presence in the city. Dr. Gunther Hirsch, now the mayor of Havre de Grace, opened his medical practice at the Medical Arts Building 30 years ago. The building, at 131 South Union Ave., was designed by his wife, Poldi, an architect.
Their three daughters, all doctors, have their offices in the building. Dr. Elaine Hirsch, chief of podiatry at Harford Memorial Hospital, has an office there, and Dr. Edna Hirsch, chief of dentistry at Harford Memorial Hospital, has her general dentistry office there.
The podiatry and dentistry offices will remain at the Medical Arts Building.