S.C. finds new uses for old property
There's an old Mark Twain quote about land: "They're not making it anymore."
Twain knew owning land was a good investment. And in a mountainous state like ours, having a good tract of developable land can be a veritable gold mine.
It's a lesson that stuck out last week when South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Bob Anderson offered to give me a tour of the city.
Anderson, who has a dogged determination to promote his city, wanted to help break me into the local business beat by guiding me street by street through the town's growing business sector.
"In 45 years, I've never seen so much potential in South Charleston," Anderson said. "We just have potential on every corner."
That potential is being driven by a focus on finding new uses for existing property.
"It comes down to reclaiming property," Anderson said. "It's something South Charleston has done and is doing very well."
Both Charleston and South Charleston have transformed Corridor G into a shopping mecca. South Charleston has also benefited from new investment at the West Virginia Regional Technology Park.
With those past successes under the city's belt, Anderson highlighted a few "big sites" for potential development in the coming years.
City leaders are looking to develop a seven-acre tract in the middle of town that's currently just a parking lot and grassy area.
Another location is a 14-acre plot of reclaimed Brownfield land along the Kanawha River, behind the Rite Aid on MacCorkle Avenue.
That plot is located next to the Joe Holland dealership service center, which was also built on reclaimed Brownfield land.
Down the street lies another tract of developable land located adjacent to the Clearon plant.
But the biggest area for redevelopment was the site of the old FMC hydrogen peroxide plant along Interstate 64.
Smith Fasteners is already working on building a new location on a tract adjacent to the site.
Developers are now completing demolition work on the final FMC buildings at the site, which features 40 acres of land with another 40 acres covered by water.
They eventually plan to fill in the 40 acres currently covered by water to make a sprawling 80-acre tract of flat land.
It stands to be prime property for industrial development once completed.
It would also be located next to Gestamp, which is another example of how an existing location can be transformed into a booming business.
Anderson said the ability to reclaim these properties has helped revive the local economy and lay the groundwork for further development in the years to come.
"I don't know of any other small town that's able to recover their property like that," Anderson said.
With many manufacturing sites in West Virginia now sitting idle, the efforts of South Charleston community and business leaders could serve as a good example of how to re-energize the state's economy.