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City to gather project input on day of parade

October 25, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Holiday cheer won't be the only thing in the air during the annual Charles Town Christmas parade this year.

How about a little revitalization discussion to go with your celebration?

Taking advantage of the estimated 3,000 people that typically come downtown for the parade, Charles Town officials will hold a meeting at City Hall on the proposal to redevelop an old commercial area along North Street.

The meeting will be held Dec. 4 at 10 a.m., just before the parade gets started around 11 a.m., Charles Town City Council member Matt Ward said.

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At the meeting, officials from the Urban Land Institute will give their final recommendations on the project.

Urban Land Institute officials were among a group of experts in the area last week to review the plan. After spending 24 hours studying the proposal, the experts made a number of suggestions, such as increasing the amount of housing downtown and convincing Jefferson Memorial Hospital not to move out of Ranson.

The suggestions were made to help increase the chances of success for a proposal to redevelop an approximately 100-acre area that includes empty buildings, a 7-acre parking lot, a reservoir and an old scrap yard and former granaries.

Charles Town and Ranson, W.Va., officials believe the old commercial area can be an ideal place to attract new businesses such as high-tech companies and retail and entertainment-based businesses.

Local officials said they wanted to hold their meeting with Urban Land Institute officials before the Christmas parade to give local residents a chance to learn more about the project.

After the Dec. 4 meeting, work will start on a plan to recruit new businesses into the redevelopment area, Ward said Sunday.

Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton said Sunday the local development community has shown a "positive response" to what can happen in the project area. Hilton declined to elaborate on any ways he thinks the revitalization might proceed, saying he wants to hear thoughts from the public first.

"I'm just excited about the ideas. Who knows where we will end up," Hilton said.

Redevelopment of old commercial areas has been considered in other communities and sometimes referred to as "brownfields," which are sites that once were productive but have been abandoned and not redeveloped because of the real or imagined fear of environmental contamination.

Ward said last Tuesday that an environmental assessment of the local properties has either shown no pollution problems or minor ones.

The cities of Charles Town and Ranson received $250,000 in federal funding to start planning the redevelopment project. This summer, another $145,000 was obtained for environmental assessment work and a proposal is pending in Congress to award $750,000 to the project to prepare the old commercial areas for new business, Ward said.

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