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Council to hear landscaping plan for MacCorkle Avenue

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A median with trees and green space, improved pedestrian crossings and parallel parking could all one day become reality on MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City, under a local consulting firm's plan.

In addition, 50th Street could resemble more of a park setting with the addition of a "green spine" consisting of trees and landscaped space.

The plan, dubbed the "Kanawha City Corridor Study," was commissioned by the city of Charleston and was first publicly presented at the annual Kanawha City Community Association meeting Thursday night.

Charleston-based GAI Consultants created the plan based on a year's work of research, said David Gilmore, a land development services manager with GAI. GAI is the same consulting firm that developed a recently released plan to put bicycle lanes along Kanawha Boulevard West and assisted with Imagine Charleston.

For now, the plan is just that - a plan.

None of the ideas proposed are funded, Charleston Planning Director Dan Vriendt said. But, the plan will go before city council for approval, and if it passes, it can be used to apply for federal and state grants for the next decade or two.

"We can't make an application unless we have a plan," he said.

The MacCorkle Avenue and 50th Street improvements are all possible without the city obtaining any additional land.

Gilmore said the city-owned rights-of-way in Kanawha City are huge - 80 feet for Mac-Corkle Avenue and 100 feet for 50th Street. That means the city has great flexibility when considering improvements.

"It really frees us up to do a lot of interesting things," Gilmore said.

Historically, he said, Kanawha City was planned around pedestrians and slow-moving vehicles - not modern automobiles.

Once use of the automobile became mainstream, the consultants said, MacCorkle Avenue became one of the main thoroughfares into Charleston from the south before the interstate system. That traffic load caused the neighborhood to lose some of the walkability it had originally.

"Those ideals are still there, they just need to be resurfaced," Gilmore said.

The plan also divides Kanawha City into districts, beginning with the Medical District around CAMC General Hospital on the northern end of the neighborhood. The districts then transition into the "Village District," the "Professional District," "Main Street" (50th Street) and the "Retail District," which includes much of the large retail stores at the southern end of the neighborhood.

Gilmore said each district could have its own vibe and unique decor, if that's what the city decides. There could also be different changes to MacCorkle Avenue depending on the district.

For example, parallel parking and formal parking lots - all in areas the city already owns - could be added along parts of MacCorkle with a higher density of shops or restaurants. In other areas, MacCorkle Avenue could remain the same as it is now.

Residents present at the meeting were largely supportive of the plan, but wanted to make sure other problems - like parking - would be created by the plan.

"We're not trying - and we don't want to - push traffic into those neighborhoods," Gilmore said of areas east and west of MacCorkle.

Gilmore said the plan will soon be available online at the city's website for public review. In order to become an official development plan for the city, the plan will have to be introduced in city council, pass one or more city council committees and then be brought back to council for final approval.


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