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Projects aim to revitalize downtown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The face of downtown Charleston continues to change as the city tries to make itself more attractive for development, investment and shopping.

Plans to renovate Slack Plaza in Charleston are on hold while the city continues to draft comprehensive and downtown revitalization plans, but riverfront revitalization is still moving forward.  

A plan to build a two-lane bicycle path along the riverfront and Kanawha Boulevard continues to progress, Charleston City Manager David Molgaard said.

"We're also working with the (Army) Corps of Engineers on future riverbank stabilization projects," Molgaard said. "But that will depend on when Congress appropriates money to pay for it."

City officials are planning to use about $1.7 million to design and build the trail along the Kanawha River. The trail will run from Magic Island to Patrick Street, Molgaard said.

The city may also use about $700,000 to fund the bike trail project, he said during a previous interview.

The riverfront will also be looked at as part of the downtown revitalization and comprehensive plans, Molgaard said.

Drafts of the city's comprehensive and downtown revitalization plans should be presented to council in the next few weeks, said Susie Salisbury, a Charleston councilwoman and a senior vice president with Charleston Area Alliance.

The drafts of both plans will be presented to members of the public during a meeting. The members of the public will then get to critique the plans and offer changes, she said.

"Then we'll make the edits and have the final plan ready by April, I hope," Salisbury said.

The Alliance and other organizations within the city will likely base their five-year work plans on what is finally published in the comprehensive and downtown plans, she added.

A plan to create a new downtown apartment complex at the site of the Holley Hotel on Quarrier Street is also progressing, Molgaard said.

The plan calls for employees to subsidize their workers' rent payments to keep the apartments affordable.

The rent payments, plus the subsidies, will be used to pay for the construction and maintenance of the building if the project gets off the ground, Molgaard said during a previous interview.

However, housing isn't the only part of the proposed project. The participants, who will be young professionals, will also participate in a philanthropic project in the community, Molgaard said.

He is working to form a steering committee made up of young professionals to determine what type of project the participants should undertake, he said.

The ideas should deal with ways to improve the community as a whole, Molgaard said.  

"The committee will come up with some ideas and then we'll develop the projects around those ideas," he said.

He has also been meeting with companies that may be interested in sponsoring a resident and providing a subsidy to the project, Molgaard said.

City leaders are also hoping to spruce up at least one of Charleston's entrances, Salisbury said.

The city has $45,000 worth of grants that will be used to build a Welcome to Charleston sign. However, the sign won't be a run-of-the-mill green plate with white lettering.

Instead it will be considered a piece of "public art," Salisbury said.

"This is a piece of public art that really expresses what the community is all about," she said.

Salisbury is working with Department of Transportation to secure a spot for the sign. She hopes to have it placed somewhere along Greenbrier Street in the near future.      

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon. ;  


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