Wantz Building sold for $530,000

Renovated site to get doughnut shop

July 20, 1999|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,SUN STAFF

The 117-year-old Wantz Building on Westminster's Main Street, studded with unusual graffiti that blasts city government, has been sold to an Owings Mills restaurateur and developer who plan to convert part of the site into a doughnut store.

The $530,000 sale to Robert Worgan, who owns the New Town Diner, and Garnet Bean, a real estate developer, was announced yesterday.

Plans call for a $1.2 million renovation to begin immediately, said R. Douglas Mathias, executive director of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., the city's nonprofit business community partner. The project will eliminate at least one tenant, Little Vinnie's Tattoo Parlor.

The rejuvenated building will house the Donut Factory, where about 500 dozen doughnuts a day are expected to be made and sold throughout Westminster, Worgan said. A health food store and job training school will also be in the building, Worgan said.

The two-story, 5,000-square-foot building has an unusual array of tenants, including a tattoo parlor, skateboard shop and craft store.

Worgan and Bean also plan to renovate 12 apartments in the building for rental.

"We are going to totally face-lift the building -- to try to dress it up a bit," Worgan said. "I think there's a lot of potential."

The building at 25 E. Main St. was built by Charles V. Wantz, a merchant known for his 5-cent cigar. He opened the building in 1882 to hold his tobacco shop and Sharrer Bros., a men's clothier. An addition was built in 1890.

The Wantz Building underwent an incomplete renovation in the early 1980s when the building next door, Winchester Exchange, was updated, Mathias said.

Since then, a dispute between the former Wantz owner, David Fairbank, and city officials has raged publicly -- with a painted protest message, "Westminster Gov't Unfair," emblazoned in bright yellow paint on the facade of his building.

Fairbank claimed that the city reneged on a verbal promise to pay for an extension of a water line to his building and that city officials showed favoritism to David Max, owner of the Winchester Exchange. Fairbank could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Last week's sale continues a renewal of historic Main Street that began in the spring when the nearly three-mile stretch was placed on the state Department of Housing and Community Development's Main Street Maryland list, joining a national program that has resulted in more than $7 billion invested in 1,400 communities across the country since 1977.

Mathias is expected to submit a plan in six weeks to show how city officials will link state and national preservation experts and architects with local businesses to help reshape Main Street's image, said Mathias.

The Main Street Maryland designation is the economic boost local officials had been hoping for since 1994, when a consultant's report detailed ways to improve commerce and attract businesses to the main stretch. Already, $30,000 has been committed for improvements expected to begin this year, Mathias said.

Many property owners along the shaded street may have to renovate their 19th-century buildings, which hold antique shops, restaurants, delis and other small businesses and attract an estimated 6,000 visitors each year, officials said.

Part of the sale of the Wantz building was financed by the state community development office, Mathias said, which granted a low-interest loan for renovations.

Terms of the loan exclude a tattoo parlor from operating in the renovated building, Worgan said.

The Donut Factory is expected to create 16 jobs when it opens in October, Worgan said. The renovated building will also include four retail stores along Main Street and five other retail and office spaces, he said.

"It will finally be completed," Mathias said yesterday.

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