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Ground to be broken on East End park this month

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Officials with the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority expect to see dirt being moved at the site of the new East End park by the end of the month.

During Wednesday's meeting, authority Executive Director Jim Edwards announced that contracts between the city and the contractor, McClanahan Construction, have been finalized.

"All of the bureaucratic steps have been completed," Edwards said. "And the contractor expects to be on the site by March 25."

Urban Renewal Authority board chairman Jack Cavender is very pleased to see the $516,000 park project on Nancy and Dixie streets on the East End move forward.

"It's been a long time coming," he said. 

The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority has earmarked $260,000 for the project. Federal block grant funds administered by the city will make up the remainder of the cost.

The city also contributed $10,000 for disposal of contaminated soil at the site.

Karen Haddad, a board member for the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, also pledged $25,200 from the Haddad Foundation to pay for paver stones to be placed under the pavilion in the park.

The first phase will include construction of an entryway into the park, a pavilion-type structure and spots for public art.

Funds for the second phase of construction have not been allocated yet.

The initial contract does not include a circular trail at the park, but the contractor will provide an estimate for its construction to the authority's board members while they are on site, Edwards said.

"The board has expressed an interest in getting that (trail) built during the first phase of construction," he said.

Edwards also announced that the state Historic Preservation Office had allocated $14,000 to help pay for a survey that could lead to another historic district in the East End.

The study will be looking at the area north of Washington Street East to Piedmont Road, Edwards said. The survey will also look at the community from Greenbrier Street west to Morris Street, he said.

Charleston officials had requested about $28,000 from the state to help fund the study.

The Urban Development Authority had allocated $12,000 to help fund the study during a meeting in October.

Edwards recommended that the board solicit proposals from firms to conduct the study in order to get an accurate cost. He will then bring that figure back to the authority board to see if additional funds should be allocated by the agency, he said.

He believes creating a historic district in the area is the best way for the authority to stimulate private development.

If the area were designated as historic, it would allow property owners to apply for state and federal tax credits when renovating. The tax credits could be used to offset renovation costs.

Property owners in the district would not have to undergo a design review for renovations if they did not apply for the tax credits, and could do whatever they wished with their properties.

The property owners would only have to undergo a design review if they were applying for the tax credits.

Properties that produce income, such as rentals, would be eligible for a 20 percent federal tax credit for renovation projects. Residential properties would be eligible for a 10 percent state tax credit.

The board members also discussed the agency's loan policy. The agency does not currently have a loan policy even though it provides funds to projects.

Board member Karen Haddad expressed concerns that the policy as it is currently written is too restrictive.

The draft policy currently reads that loans "shall be reserved for projects where the borrowing entity is not currently eligible to obtain financing from a commercial lender."

"It seems that the definition is very, very tight," Haddad said.

Haddad said she worries that the policy would penalize a party who could obtain financing from a commercial lender, but may need additional funds from the authority.

The loan policy was tabled until the April meeting.   

Urban Renewal Authority board members also received an update from Charleston Brewing Company owner Ann Saville, who is taking over the space formerly occupied by Capitol Roasters.

Capitol Roasters closed at the end of February. The coffee shop occupied about 2,900 square feet of space in the building at the corner of Quarrier and Summers streets.

The unopened brewpub/restaurant will now take over that space, using it for seating, Saville said during a previous interview. The brewpub is located in the same building.

The wall separating the brewpub from the area formerly occupied by the coffee shop has been removed.

Saville said equipment at the pub has been installed and brewer Ryan Heastings could begin brewing beer by the end of the week.

The pub will have five beers made on site ready to serve by the planned grand opening in April, Saville said.          

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


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