CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will pay for a team of consultants to redesign Slack Plaza, the city of Charleston's maligned transit mall.
The EPA announced Charleston as one of five state capitals that are meant to benefit from the agency's "Greening America's Capitals" program.
The federal agency will pay for a team to come up with a plan for the plaza. It will not provide the city with money to turn blueprints into reality, something that could end up costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In announcing Slack Plaza as its choice, the EPA said, "The city itself acknowledges that the area lacks any green space, has no real sense of place and is challenged by poor signage and safety issues."
The other sites are in Boston; Jefferson City, Mo.; Hartford, Conn..; and Little Rock, Ark. Thirty-eight of the 50 states applied.
Slack Plaza is the site of a bus station that serves thousands of riders a month and is the main crossroads for downtown foot traffic.
But it's also "barren, hot and unattractive," according to an application submitted to the EPA by Charleston City Manager David Molgaard and Susie Salisbury, the vice president of the Charleston Area Alliance.
They said the transit mall is a stop for more than 640 bus trips a day but the riders, many of them low-income and without a car, have said they don't like the plaza because of its design, poor security and blight.
"In addition, a lack of green space has resulted in an area this is barren, hot and unattractive. Citizens and visitors have expressed concern with the targeted area, and the statistics show that in the past two years, over 1,000 calls to Metro Emergency 911 have been logged in the immediate area we are proposing to redesign," the application said.
The EPA said one goal in Charleston is to "establish a common vision for Slack Plaza that could transform it into a multi-modal transportation hub and well-used town square. Adding public art, trees, and redesigning the pedestrian corridors to serve a range of users will continue Charleston's efforts to foster a more beautiful and sustainable community."
The agency's help doesn't come with any money outside the fees to be paid to the consultants, who have yet to be hired. Design consultants can be costly.
Molgaard said in an interview Wednesday that the master plan for the city's riverfront cost $120,000.