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Officials have high hopes for Charles Town redevelopment

October 20, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - An environmental assessment of properties in an old commercial area that local officials are trying to redevelop shows few problems with pollution, a Charles Town official said Tuesday.

The properties either have no problems at all or have minor ones that would be easy to deal with, Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward said.

Ward made the comments as a team of experts working on the redevelopment project met at City Hall.

Many of the local officials were optimistic about the prospects of the project.

"I believe we have an opportunity to make history here," Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton said.

For about four years, Charles Town and Ranson, W.Va., officials have worked on a plan to redevelop abandoned or underutilized commercial buildings that are clustered around a CSX line along North Street.

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Last year, two public meetings gathered input on the project. Based on those meetings, officials said the project could include a new retail/entertainment district, setting aside space for high-tech companies, a new Jefferson County court facility and park facilities.

On Tuesday, a brochure was unveiled at City Hall which shows where the new business areas could be. A map in the center of the brochure shows a variety of possible new uses for the area, including a proposed three-floor technology center near the intersection of First Avenue and George Street, a car-hop diner near the intersection of Samuel and North streets, a retail and movie complex near the intersection of George and North streets and three, three-floor office buildings in the same area.

Ward said the brochures will be distributed to business groups that may be interested in starting new operations in the area. Part of the role of local government is to bring prospective developers and landowners together, Ward said.

Ward said owners of the properties in the redevelopment area cooperated with the environmental assessment work. Owners of the properties seem to be interested in partnering with other people to redevelop the sites or selling the land, Ward said.

A large group of experts who are working on the project met at City Hall as the latest developments in the effort were discussed. Representatives from the Urban Land Institute, an organization which assists the public and private sector in land use, also attended the meeting.

Urban Land Institute officials will review the redevelopment plan today and give their input on the project this afternoon.

"It's going to be interesting to plow through this in the next 24 hours," said Bob Wulff of the Urban Land Institute.

The redevelopment area consists of about 100 acres, empty buildings, a 7-acre parking lot, a reservoir, an old scrap yard and former granaries.

Ranson Mayor David Hamill, who was at Tuesday's meeting, said the project reflects how Charles Town and Ranson are becoming "one community."

"We expect to continue down that path because it has been beneficial for us," Hamill said.

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