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Ranson & Charles Town Commerce Corridor Project recognized with two awards

June 09, 2013|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com

RANSON, W.Va. — In 2001, officials in the adjoining cities of Ranson and Charles Town, W.Va., met with Dawn Seeburger, owner of a Charleston, W.Va., environmental resource consulting firm, about developing several large brownfield areas that sat useless for decades in both municipalities.

That meeting resulted in the ongoing construction of the Ranson & Charles Town Commerce Corridor Project. The 1.5-mile stretch of land across both cities was marked with a number of brownfields that were left behind by industrial and commercial ventures that once provided hundreds of local jobs over the decades.

About a dozen years after that meeting, local officials brought home two coveted awards from the National Brownfield Conference in Atlanta, recognizing the success of the commerce corridor.

Ranson and Charles Town were presented with a Phoenix Award for Excellence in Brownfield Redevelopment for Region 3, which includes Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“The fact that we were recognized for the Phoenix Award puts Ranson and Charles Town on the map,” Ranson City Manager David Mills said.

“More than that, we received the People’s Choice Award, which was voted on by the 3,000 people at the conference.”

“It emphasizes that all we tried to do in the last 10 years contributing to revitalization was worth it,” said Charles Town City Manager Joe Cosentini.

The trophies are on display in the Ranson City Council meeting room.

A press release about the Phoenix Award said: “For over a decade, Ranson and Charles Town have been committed to making the commerce corridor initiative the foundation of a vibrant mixed-use downtown on what had been a polluted, vacant corridor of brownfields straddling the municipal boundaries. The cities used EPA brownfields grants and other resources to create an ambitious reuse vision that called for development of technology-oriented commercial buildings and renewed community spaces.”

Two standout projects on the corridor were built on two cleaned-up brownfields by the American Public University System.

The first, a four-story, 45,000-square-foot, $12 million academic center, was built in Charles Town near the Ranson city line on the site of a former metal salvage yard that operated for more than a century until it closed in the 1960s. American Public University System moved into the building in 2010.

In 2012, American Public University cut the ribbon on a 105,000-square-foot, four-story, $18 million finance center that included a 1,660-panel solar array. That building straddles the Charles Town/Ranson city line.

On its own, Ranson converted the 40,000-square-foot former Maytag Spray Painting/Dixie Narco plant into the Ranson Civic Center. The old factory building sat idle from 1998 to 2008, when the city bought the property. Now home to the Ranson Parks and Recreation Commission, the center provides a venue for athletic events, social functions, trade shows and job fairs.

Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill estimated that development of the corridor, which runs from downtown Charles Town to the Old Town Court (The Home Depot) shopping center in Ranson, is about 40 percent complete. The next decade should see it finished, he said.

“It’s far from over,” Hamill said.

The corridor’s success so far has depended on changing the mind-set of the community “to believe in revitalization in the center of the communities as the proper focus for growth and development,” the release said.

The cities have been working closely with Seeburger, owner of Environmental Research and Consulting in Charleston, for 10 years.

Mills, Hamill and Andrew Blake, Ranson city attorney, credit Seeburger and her company with moving the project forward, designing its route and applying for the grants to clean up the brownfields.

Seeburger is project manager for the corridor.

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