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Charles Town officials propose city renewal

January 04, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town officials are proposing an extensive revitalization effort downtown that would include building new sidewalks, planting trees and burying power lines.

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Matt Ward, a member of the Charles Town Planning Commission, said sidewalks in town are starting to deteriorate and the flowering trees along Washington Street will have to be replaced eventually.

Now is a good time to make sure the downtown shopping area is in good shape before more growth occurs, he said.

"The whole area we're talking about is threatened by sprawl and growth, and we need to prepare for that," said Ward.

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He said he hopes the town can get $400,000 in federal highway money for the improvements. To get the money, the city would have to pitch in $100,000, said Ward.

The city already has $12,000 in state Community Partnership grant money for the project, leaving $88,000 for the city to come up with, he said.

Despite concerns by one council member, the council voted to put up the $88,000 during a Monday night meeting at the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Council member Mary Via said she believes the proposal should have gone before the finance committee first.

The federal funds, distributed by the state, come from the Transportation Enhancements Program.

The proposal, which town officials are calling the Washington Corridor Revitalization Project, calls for building red brick sidewalks on Washington Street between Samuel and West streets and on George Street between Congress and Liberty streets, said Ward.

Utility lines on George Street would be buried to make the area more attractive, said Ward. A red brick crosswalk would be built in the intersection of George and Washington streets.

Other improvements would include benches, trash receptacles and possibly a small historical park between the St. Margaret's building and the old Independent fire hall.

Ward said the downtown area is rich in history, and markers describing the town's past could be placed in the park.

The trial of abolitionist John Brown was held at the Jefferson County Courthouse at the corner of George and Washington streets. George Washington purchased large amounts of land in town, and his brother Charles founded the village in 1786.

Cara Lloyd, who works at Fins Feathers and Friends pet store in Charles Town, said she welcomed the changes. Although the pet store has thrived, other stores have struggled, Lloyd said.

A good sprucing up might be what the town needs to bring in more people, she said.

"We need to keep people here," she said.

Downtown business owner Gary Kable questioned whether trees need to be planted downtown and expressed concern about whether a brick sidewalk would hold up.

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