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City seeks revitalization input

November 28, 1999|By DAVE McMILLION, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Charles Town residents will have a chance to make a different kind of holiday shopping list thanks to a meeting in which city officials will let them choose items for a downtown revitalization project.

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During a Dec. 2 meeting in town, city residents will be shown pictures of different sidewalks, benches and mini-parks that could be part of an extensive revitalization of downtown, said Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward.

Residents will be asked to vote on what features they like best, Ward said.

"Folks that want to speak out on this really ought to do it now," he said. "We're laying down the foundation of our future."

City officials have been planning a downtown revitalization effort that will include building new sidewalks, planting trees and burying power lines. Sidewalks downtown are starting to deteriorate, and Ward said it is important to make the improvements now before the town experiences more growth.

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Charles Town officials have selected a nationally recognized urban development firm to design the revitalization plan for the district.

EDAW Inc., has headed up revitalization efforts for a number of cities, including Charlottesville, Va., and Bethesda, Md. The company also led a project to revitalize the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Ward said.

"They're the best around," he said.

On the morning of Dec. 2, officials from EDAW and the town will tour the downtown area to assess the city's features, Ward said.

After the tour, other meetings will be held in which leaders from Ranson, W.Va., and other local organizations can meet with EDAW about the effort, Ward said.

Later that day, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., the town meeting will be held at the Jefferson County Courthouse. During the meeting, town residents will see a slide show offered by EDAW which will show the different sidewalk designs, benches and other features that can be used for the revitalization.

Residents can then vote on each item, Ward said.

On Dec. 4, between 10 a.m. and noon, there will be an open house at city hall in which residents can choose from three plans for the revitalization project, Ward said.

The $20,500 being paid to EDAW for the design of the project is funded through a $165,000 grant from Gov. Cecil Underwood. To pay for the revitalization, the city will apply for funding through the federal Transportation Enhancements Program. Between $400,000 and $800,000 will be needed, Ward said.

Mayor Randy Hilton said the project is vital to saving Charles Town's character. While Charles Town faces many of the same challenges as other small towns, it has some unique characteristics, he said.

"We're just not Anytown, U.S.A.," he said. "We're a close-knit community and we need to preserve what is distinctive."

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