CHARLESTON, W.Va. - New bike paths, improved green space and updates to residential housing, among other ideas, are all part of Charleston's proposed new comprehensive redevelopment plan and downtown redevelopment plans, which were released to the public on Thursday.
The plans are essentially a "road map of where the city wants to go," said Dan Vriendt, director of the Charleston Planning Department. The new plan will be the basis for actions the city takes, from zoning to private-public partnerships to capital improvements.
The downtown plan is really a chapter in the city's comprehensive, or overall plan, but is detailed enough to be its own document. Vriendt compared the comprehensive plan as a "20,000-foot view" of the city, while the downtown plan is a "10,000-foot view."
The last comprehensive plan was developed in 1996, and the last downtown plan was written even earlier. The point of the latest plan is to provide the city and all city departments with a general list of priorities and projects the city should undertake and/or encourage.
Craig Gossman, a principal with MKSK, a Columbus, Ohio, based consulting firm that helped write the new plan, said housing is the biggest issue facing Charleston.
"Charleston's housing stock must be elevated," he said.
The plan calls for housing improvements, including new "infill" housing, which generally refers to new housing projects for lots on which a building doesn't currently exist. Those would be built by private developers, of course, but would be encouraged by the city in the current plan.
The construction of rentals shouldn't be discouraged, either, said Brad Strader, president and managing partner of LSL Planning, another consulting firm associated with the plan.
"Younger generations are not as sure that owning a home is the right thing," he said.
Gossman said in meetings the consultants had with Charleston residents, some of the biggest changes requested for downtown and elsewhere in the city were "bikeability," walkability, and the improvement of sidewalks. The plan addresses those concerns.
For cyclists, the plan includes a new, two-way bike path along Kanawha Boulevard completely separate from vehicle travel lanes and from sidewalks used by pedestrians.