Printers hope to buy post office

Owings Mills company third to sign contract for historic property

60 days to finalize deal

Business promises more employment, opportunity to area

February 17, 2000|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

An Owings Mills design and printing company is the latest business to sign a contract to buy the historic post office building on Westminster's East Main Street.

Matthew Kohn of Kohn Design and Printing Co. said yesterday that his offer to buy the red-brick building at 83 E. Main St. was accepted Monday. Though he would not say his company definitely was moving to downtown Westminster, a company fact sheet indicates the business "is in the process of a transformation that should bring additional employment opportunities to -- Westminster in the near future."

The design company has 13 employees but plans to add nine to 12 when it relocates. Kohn, who lives in New Windsor, said he and his brother Joshua were attracted to the uniqueness of the post office building.

They're not the only ones.

"There has been tremendous interest in this building, and there still is locally," said R. Douglas Mathias , executive director of Greater Westminster Development Corp., adding that local merchants were touring the building as recently as Monday. "If for some reason this deal isn't consummated, there is considerable interest locally to secure the building in the future."

The old post office was among four properties listed as key to a healthy downtown in a consultants' report to the city in 1994. The other three sites -- the firehouse, the old J. C. Penney building and the former Farmers Supply Co. property -- have been or are being redeveloped. The remaining building has been vacant -- with a $575,000 asking price -- since August 1998 when the U.S. Postal Service moved to a new $2.7 million facility in Englar Business Park.

Many Main Street merchants complained that the move caused a sharp drop in downtown foot traffic, leading to a 30 percent dip in sales for businesses within a month of the post office's departure.

Since then, at least three businesses have signed options to buy the building, which was built in 1934 and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The first contract was signed by a commercial real estate broker but fell through, as did an option taken by a local doctor, Mathias said.

In June, Westminster's mayor and Common Council voted to suspend business zoning on the post office site and placed a three-month moratorium on development plans and building permits to prevent a mental health service from completing a deal to buy the building. Officials said a treatment center did not match their commercial development plans for the downtown district.

David Goldbloom of Erwin L. Greenberg Commercial Corp., which represents the Postal Service in the sale of their building, declined to comment on the contract with Kohn Design and Printing. "As you may know, I have had a bit of an experience with Westminster," he said. "So I have two words for you: No comment."

Kohn Design and Printing has 60 days to inspect the building and finalize a deal, Mathias said.

The Kohn brothers -- 38-year-old Matthew and 36-year-old Joshua -- started their business 13 years ago on the third floor of their parents' home on St. Paul Street in Baltimore. Their most sophisticated -- and only -- equipment were a Macintosh computer and a dot-matrix printer.

They soon moved to a modest office in Roland Park, and then to Music Fair Road in Owings Mills. The company specializes in graphic design in a variety of formats, such as logos, business cards, letterheads and newsletters. It also makes trade show exhibits, architectural models and Web page designs.

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