- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A long-standing Wheaton magic shop will be demolished to make way for a sidewalk, and its owner is upset that bars and an adult video store nearby will be allowed to remain in business.

On May 4, Montgomery County acquired the property that is home to Barry’s Magic Shop on Georgia Avenue. The building will be demolished to create pedestrian and handicapped access between the shops and parking lots on Georgia Avenue and the shops and lots on Triangle Lane, west of Georgia Avenue, said Joseph R. Davis, director of the Wheaton Redevelopment Program, which aims to create new retail, residential and office development in downtown Wheaton.

The county will negotiate with owners Barry Taylor and wife Susie Kang to determine when the store will close and the type of relocation assistance the county will offer the store’s owner, Mr. Davis said. Various initiatives to improve the downtown area have been tried since 1990.

Mr. Taylor, who for the past 32 years has owned and operated the shop with his wife, said he did not understand how his business, which he described as a “wholesome atmosphere for families” would be demolished while other businesses, such as bars, several check-cashing stores and a nearby adult video store, would remain open.

“I think there are a lot of other businesses around here that I don’t understand how the Wheaton community promotes them because they’re not that wholesome,” Mr. Taylor said. “They’re going to tear my building down, force me out, and they promote these other kinds of businesses?”

While county officials agree Mr. Taylor’s business is a community asset, they say the property’s location is what determined the demolition plan.

“When you do a walkway, certainly you don’t choose the business that you may not like or that you do like to do the capital project,” said Natalie Cantor, director of the Mid-County Services Center, the office that is overseeing the Wheaton Redevelopment Program. “You choose what is a rational approach, and the location is what chose the area, certainly not the nature of the businesses there or not there. I definitely agree with Barry Taylor that his businesses is a family business and it is a wonderful business.”

A manager of the Cadmus II Video & Newsstand next door, said the store sells adult material and that he is not concerned with Mr. Taylor’s situation.

“I could care less about what’s happening to him; he ain’t got nothing to do with us,” said Earl, who declined to give his last name.

Mr. Davis said the shop’s location is the best place for a well-designed, well-lit walkway because it is mid-block between the two plazas.

Also the store, unlike the two shopping plazas it is sandwiched between, is a free-standing building.

“There are over 40 businesses on this block that would directly benefit from the demolition of this building,” Mr. Davis said, citing the improved access to downtown businesses the walkway is meant to create.

Mr. Taylor and his lawyer, R. Timothy McCrum, a partner in Washington law firm Crowell & Moring LLP, said the existing walkway is sufficient and does not merit tearing down the building, while Mrs. Cantor said the area is difficult to access and pedestrians have to “squeeze through.”

“Our feeling is that this may well be a legitimate purpose to have pedestrians to be able to walk through there, which they are currently able today,” Mr. McCrum said.

Mr. Taylor and Ms. Kang, who lease their location, say they do not consider the amount the county has offered for relocation assistance to be sufficient and dispute the need to demolish the building.

Mr. Davis said the county uses established guidelines to allocate the public funds that would assist them.

He said if the owners decide to relocate to another building in Wheaton, the county would pay up to $10,000 to cover the costs associated with moving as well as tasks such as building outfitting. Or owners have the option to take a lump sum of about $20,000 if they do not know where they will relocate to. He said the county will sit down with Mr. Taylor to discuss the options.

The county is willing and ready to reach a solution that is beneficial for all parties, Mrs. Cantor said.

Mr. Taylor said while he has a lease that might allow him to remain in the building until 2009, he would be willing to move if the county made it feasible. He said, however, that the county has not done so.

“I stress that the county is going to do everything it can possibly do to keep [Mr. Taylor’s store] in Wheaton. We do consider his business to be one of the premier attractions, and it would be foolish on our part to want in any way to harm that,” Mrs. Cantor said.

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