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Renewal district could be expanded on West Side

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston's West Side renewal district could be expanded to include the area along Washington Street West near the former Staats Hospital.

Members of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board authorized Executive Director Jim Edwards Wednesday to solicit proposals from consultants to study the expansion.

The authority has already established an urban renewal district along Washington Street West, and the area used to include Elk City, Edwards said. He was not sure why the district was allowed to expire around 2010.

The West Side renewal district includes most areas of the West Side flats except for the Elk City area, said Geoff Plagemann, a Charleston neighborhood planner.

Elk City refers to the area between the Elk River and the train tracks on Washington Street West. Elk City also includes the area between the Kanawha River to just north of Washington Street West. 

Edwards sees few downsides to re-establishing the district.

"It's important to note that it brings with it no additional costs or taxes for the property owners," Edwards said.

Depending on how the plan is written, it also may not create any additional regulatory measures for property owners, he said.

The creation of the district would instead give property owners in Elk City access to funds appropriated through West Side Main Street, Plagemann said.

For example, West Side Main Street administers facade and sign grant funds allocated to the organization by the renewal authority. However, businesses applying for the grants must be located in a renewal district, he said.

"This would be another tool for property owners in the area," Plagemann said.

Edwards agreed, saying it would be very beneficial to business owners in the area to become part of an urban renewal district.

Not only would it allow them to apply for facade and sign grants, business owners could also apply for loans from the Urban Renewal Authority, Edwards said.

"If a business is included in our renewal area, then our budget comes into play as well," he said.

 The expanded renewal district does not have to include the traditional boundaries of the Elk City neighborhood, Edwards said.

The consultant would have to set the boundaries for the urban renewal district. The boundaries would depend on where the blighted areas in the area are located, he said.

Edwards expects to begin advertising for the proposals sometime this month.

Renewal authority board members also agreed to advertise for proposals for a 30,386-square feet parcel of property near the Garnet Career Center.

The agency owns the property, which is currently a parking lot leased to the career center, Edwards said.

The request for proposals for the property should be advertised by Monday, he said.

The agency has yet to receive any proposals for the old Holley Hotel property on Quarrier Street near the Quarrier Diner, Edwards said. The agency has been advertising for proposals since mid April.

However, it is not unusual for proposals to come in at the last minute, Edwards said.

"It's like a bid, no one wants to show their hand," he said.

Proposals must be submitted to the agency by May 31.   

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

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