Revitalization plans are taking shape

June 09, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The results of a two-day public input session to determine how a proposed redevelopment of an old commercial area in Charles Town and Ranson, W.Va., should proceed has resulted in a wide-ranging plan.

Residents and government officials have determined the area should provide space for a retail/entertainment district, a high-tech business campus, a government complex, recreation areas and park space.

For close to three years, Charles Town and Ranson officials have been working on a plan to redevelop abandoned or underutilitized commercial buildings that generally are clustered around a CSX railroad line along North Street.


The two cities already have received $250,000 in federal funding to start planning the project, and Charles Town officials are seeking another $650,000 to clear land and do site work.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, two public meetings were held to determine what local residents want to see in the redeveloped area.

Based on resident input, there are four main parts of the plan, said Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward, who has been instrumental in organizing the project:

  • Creating a new retail/entertainment district in the 200 block of North George Street near the former Schewel's furniture store. One of the main attractions there could be an eight-screen movie complex. A farmer's market also is being proposed.

  • Setting aside space for high-tech companies in an area north of the railroad tracks near the People's Supply and Whitmore Lumber buildings.

  • Constructing a new Jefferson County court facility behind the old Jefferson County Jail along George Street. The complex would include a 500-space parking garage for public and private use.

  • Developing a system of park and recreational facilities throughout the corridor, including a large park area on both sides of the railroad near the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson County. That area could include soccer fields, a walking trail along Evitt's Run and a community center that Ranson officials have been envisioning.

Ward said he believes private enterprise will be interested in investing in the corridor once the area is prepared for development.

Ward said there are some estimates that demand for office and retail space in the area could be up to 20,000 square feet per year.

"That's a lot of jobs and a lot of tax base," Ward said.

Consultants working on the project with the cities will fine-tune the plan to determine which parts of the plan will work best and how to market the area, Ward said.

To determine where the parking garage could be located, an overlay map was put over a map of the corridor, Jefferson County Commission President Jane Tabb said.

That allowed participants in one of the meetings to move a model of the parking garage freely around the area to determine which way worked the best, Tabb said.

Some interesting discussions came out of the meetings, such as a slight grade that exists by the CSX tracks along George Street, said Walton "Kip" Stowell, an architect and former mayor of Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

There was discussion that the grade probably was high enough that an overpass could be built over the railroad tracks, Stowell said.

An overpass would go a long way toward encouraging more pedestrian traffic between the two towns, Stowell said.

"It's a darn good start, I think," said Stowell, who said he gives "high credit" to both towns for working together on the plan.

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