View Full Version : Charleston, WV Development News
September 7th, 2007, 06:47 PM
News is starting to pick up... with a new condominium tower only blocks from the capitol complex, and now these twin towers...
UC plans condos on river (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007090515): Buildings will hold luxury residences, may start at $600,000
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, September 6, 2007
Two 6-story luxury towers are planned near the corner of 19th Street and Kanawha Blvd. behind Triana Field, just west of University of Charleston's main campus. Members of the Municipal Planning Commission approved preliminary site plans Wednesday, and it is up to the school's Board of Trustees, who could give final approval by September 20. If it is approved, designers with Associated Architects could take several months to finalize drawings before construction starts -- which could be as early as spring 2008.
Phase I calls for one six-story luxury condominium tower, while Phase II calls for a second identical building further upstream. The residential units will occupy the upper five floors, and the first floor will be reserved for an underground 94-space parking garage. Each building would hold 18 units, have at least 2,000 sq. ft. each, and feature a fitness center and other shared facilities. The starting price is around $600,000 and it will not exceed $2 million. All units will have both riverfront and mountainside views, and due to its staggered design, all units will have views up and down the river.
The project is not new. University officials notified the city about a possible condominium project as far back as December 2005. The project has been in planning stages for about three years. At that time, the design called for a single 10-story building, but there was some concern over the height and scale.
The land is currently owned by the University, and is zoned PMC for professional medical campus, which would support this type of development.
September 7th, 2007, 09:04 PM
Don't know much about Charleston, WV, but this thread is a positive addition to this forum. A little exposure for this city is needed and I hope to read more positive news.
September 7th, 2007, 10:08 PM
I posted other Charleston articles in the general West Virginia thread, but it's becoming quite crowded in there :)
September 17th, 2007, 08:21 PM
Parking garages scrutinized (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007091616): Charleston considers hiring consultant for 10-year repair plan
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, September 17, 2007
Two 26-year old Charleston parking garages need significant repairs to remain in service for the long term. But one of those garages, Parking Structure (PS) 3 on Reynolds Street, could be torn down. City council members will decide today whether to hire a consultant to study the city's six parking garages, particularly the two built in 1971, and write a ten-year repair and maintenance plan. As part of the study, the consultants will estimate the cost of razing PS 3.
City officials are undertaking the effort after a partial collapse of a garage at the Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital in 2004. The city has just finished major repairs at the city's two oldest garages - PS 1 at McFarland Street and PS 2 at Park Place Stadium Cinemas on Washington Street. PS 3 and PS 4 have similar problems that the city fixed in PS 1 and PS 2, mainly due to a lack of maintenance.
A lot of sheer connectors had broke in PS 1 and PS 2. Water seeped in between joints in the concrete deck over time, which led to debonding between the thin topcoat of concrete and the precast concrete beams underneath. That allowed the connectors to rust. Although the problem was corrected, it did not affect the structural stability of the garages.
In Phase I of the study, which will cost $45,000 and be finished by December 14, the consultants will determine what repairs are needed, what their cost will be, and recommend when repairs should be done for the next ten years. A routine maintenance schedule will also be developed. The plan will concentrate PS 3 and PS 4 because PS 1 and PS 2 have already been repaired, and PS 5 and PS 6, at City Hall and Summers Street respectively, are just seven years old.
All parking structures except for PS 3 make money. Built as part of a plan to move the old Greyhound station from Summers Street and create a park-and-ride system in the city using the Kanawha Rapid Transit trolleys to ferry commuters to and from outlying garages and lots, PS 3 never lived up to its promise. About 120 of the 400 parking spaces are leased long-term to state, city and private groups. Greyhound leases much of the ground floor and stores buses there. The city's police department houses 40 patrol cars, and uses a first floor room for roll-call meetings four times a day. There is also an impound lot.
The garage could be completely demolished, or partially demolished, in which the upper two floors are town down and an expansion of the Civic Center be constructed in its place, connected to the existing facility by an enclosed pedestrian walkway.
September 21st, 2007, 07:49 PM
Officials will celebrate city streetscape work
Charleston Daily Mail, August 23, 2007
Kanawha Blvd. on the west side of Charleston is undergoing some streetscape work.
New concrete sidewalks have been poured in areas, such as the Florida Street intersection, decorative bricks now accent the roadway, and new black streetlamsp adorn both sides of the lower end of Florida Street. There are new crosswalk and signal lamps along Kanawha Blvd. and overhead utility burial along Florida Street.
The $750,000 project is part of phase one. Phase two may include the streetscape work along Florida to Washington Street. Phase three covers the Washington Street end of the project.
Funding has not been secured so far, and may come from a combination Community Development Block Grant, federal, state and private monies.
September 28th, 2007, 06:03 AM
Historic district eyed for West Side (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007092311)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, September 24, 2007
Elk City, the traditional name for the near West Side, could soon become a historic district registered on the National Register of Historic Places. The effort for the designation began over a year ago by the former Elk City Renewal Association, and could lead to tax advantages and other benefits that are associated with a historic district.
The area is a prime candidate for nomination, said Mike Gioulis, a historic preservation consultant. The a concentration of historic buildings, especially along Pennsylvania Avenue, would be like what you'd find in a typical downtown if it wasn't located in Charleston. There buildings are mainly two- and three-story masonry buildings that date from the 1880s to the 1920s and 1930s, and there are no dominant architectural styles.
The proposed Elk City Historic District would be three city blocks between Washington and Lee streets, from Pennsylvania Avenue to the railroad tracks near Maryland Avenue. Most of the historic structures are along the south side of Washington near the corner of Tennessee Avenue.
The effort began by a group led by John Bullock and Fred Holroyd. Under a $6,000 grant from the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), the Elk City group hired Gioulis in 2005 to survey buildings to see if the area might quality as a historic district. The group is preparing the nomination under a second SHPO-funded grant.
Some property owners lobbied against it initially, but the Elk City group believes it is because of fear that the historic district designation would entail in property right losses -- which is not the case. A public meeting was held on September 25 in an effort to educate property owners what a historic designation entails. A property owner, for example, can modernize or tear down a building, but if the owner chooses to renovate and follow National Park Service historic guidelines, they can be eligible for tax credits of up to 30% of eligible expenses for commercial property or 20% for residential property. They are also eligible for state historic preservation development grants.
Property values should increase with the designation as well. That is what happened with the East End historic district, and along Grosscup Road, Edgewood Road and most recently in the downtown.
October 22nd, 2007, 04:23 AM
Beni Kedem stalemate stalls Civic Center expansion study (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007101817)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, October 19, 2007
The Charleston Civic Center could use a new ballroom and more meeting rooms, according to a consultant. The obvious place to expand is across from Civic Center Drive, currently occupied by a Beni Kedem Temple and Fifth Quarter restaurant. But purchase negotiations between the city and Beni Kedem officials have stalled, and city officials have put a hold on any further work by the consultants they hired in June to study the feasibility of expanding and/or building new convention facilities. Beni Kedem owns both the temple and the restaurant.
In the first phase of the $60,000 contract, Conventions, Sports & Leisure International and the DLR Group studied the local market to see what new facilities, if any, the city needs. That work is done, and it reported that the city needs a 17,000 to 20,000 sq. ft. ballroom and at least 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space to be competitive. The report also suggested upgrading the appearance and aesthetics of the Civic Center, and addressing issues with the kitchen, which opens directly into North Hall. When consultants were touring the Civic Center, which dates back to 1958, comments were made regarding the strange configuration. That was a result of expansion over the years.
In the second, optional, phase of their contract, the consultants would look at specific sites to see where the new facilities might be built. That phase is currently on hold.
Currently, the temple has a dwindling membership and have excess room. The appraisals from Beni Kedem places the property at just under $5 million, to which the city is unwilling to pay. The city has stated eminent domain might be a possibility, but as a last resort.
It's not the city's only time. In a recent case that went to court, a jury awarded a Charleston woman $591,000 for a small lot on Washington Street near the Clay Center after the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority acquired it through eminent domain. The price was nearly 62% more than a panel previously determined the site was worth.
Much of downtown Charleston, including several towers and the Charleston Town Center and hotels, was built through urban renewal and eminent domain.
October 22nd, 2007, 04:35 AM
Trees, fountain going in at Clay Center (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007101833)
By Bob Schwarz, Charleston Gazette, October 19, 2007
More than four years after the Clay Center opened in July 2003, crews are finally completing the landscaping. They added tall trees, a fountain and will eventually install a big sculpture. The Clay Center's governing board approved the $1.35 million project in February, but work did not begin until around October 1.
Details of the landscaping include seven 22-foot-tall honey locust trees beside the mostly short and flowering landscape on the Lee Street side. Crews have taken out some ornamental brick, dug planting holes, and on Thursday, were pouring concrete. On the Washington Street side, the big grassy area will receive improved drainage, some locus and linden trees, a fountain, and three concentric circles of granite seat walls. The walls will give schoolchildren extra places to sit and eat lunch. The fountain area would become a performance venue.
The Washington Street grassy area will also receive an evergreen hedge. Four pyramid-shaped hornbeam trees will be installed in front of the performance hall's grand lobby, and will range from 14- to 22-feet tall.
Funding for the project was raised in the capital campaign that paid for the building. The $1.35 million includes money, around $300,000, for the installation of a large sculpture in the center of a traffic circle. The sculpture costs extra, and an anonymous donor has pledged $400,000. The sculpture or sculptor should be chosen by year's end.
November 12th, 2007, 05:09 PM
East End condos on rise (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007111126)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, November 12, 2007
They were expecting the Baby Boomers — empty-nesters who are looking for a smaller home now that the kids have grown up and moved away.
But Ed and Richard Howard, the dentist brothers who are developing a multimillion-dollar condominium project a few blocks east of the Capitol, say they’re a bit surprised at the number of younger folks who have come calling.
“A lot of young professionals are interested in investing and want to build up equity they can use to buy their first home,” Richard Howard said.
The designers weren’t sure how wide the appeal might be, said Adam Krason, the architect from ZMM Inc. who designed the project they call “the boulevard at 2412”. (The name comes from the address of the Howard family home where Richard, Ed and their five sisters grew up.)
“Young professionals — no one knew if this was the kind of place they would like,” Krason said.
The Howard family home at 2412 Kanawha Boulevard now serves as the sales office, where sister Janet has been taking pre-sales orders for the last three months. It will eventually be torn down to make way for some of the condos.
In all, the project includes about 60 condos, some first-floor offices, parking and a senior center in seven buildings. Most will be built on about a half city block bounded by Kanawha Boulevard, East Avenue, Washington Street and Chesapeake Avenue.
Construction of the project will be done in stages, starting with the 18-unit building north of Washington. A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled Friday.
The Howards are offering an enticement to anyone thinking of buying: Make a $5,000 down payment on your condo early and you’ll get a better deal. Early buyers will then need to put up 20 percent of the total cost before construction begins, providing capital to help cover building costs.
The Howards said they plan to delay construction of additional buildings until they secure a critical mass of pre-sales to guarantee financial success.
The smallest and least expensive units are in the first building — two bedrooms, two baths, about 1,000 square feet, starting in the low $200,000s. Top-end units — 4,000 square feet with three bedrooms and three baths in one of the riverfront buildings or an upper floor in the seven-story Legacy Tower — will set you back more than $800,000.
“These spaces all have multiple private balconies,” Krason said. “The other thing affecting the price is the way people want to finish out their units. You can opt for a standard finish or customize to your heart’s content.”
“That said, the standard finish is going to be pretty special — laminate wood floors, granite countertops, master bath with walk-in shower and bathtub, ceramic tile,” he said.
Like any condominium project, there will also be monthly fees to consider. “The initial level will be fairly low, enough to cover utilities, cleaning and starting a maintenance fund,” Richard Howard said. “Under $200 a month. In the main building, with the concierge service, the fee will be higher.”
The Howards declined to say exactly how many units have been pre-sold, but indicated several in the first building are under contract. There has been “major interest” in the prime units facing the river, Ed Howard said.
“A lot of people have filled out required papers,” he said.
A family affair
Family members have been planning some sort of major housing development at the site for years, Ed Howard said.
“It was my mother and father’s vision of someday building a nice complex, an apartment complex, like in Kanawha City,” he said.
“My dad owned a grocery store across from the Diamond and at the corner of Capitol and Washington and another next to the post office at Dickinson Street. They established a small real estate company on the side. We cleaned and painted, pitched in as a family,” he said.
“As the children came of age, we saw people wanting condominiums instead of apartments,” he said.
The siblings began planning the project in earnest about five years ago, he said. “That’s when the housing boom was exploding. That’s when people starting asking about having high-end condominiums, secure, with laundry facilities on the first floor, with a computer room on the first floor,” he said.
City planning officials rejected the first proposal for a single, high-rise tower. Krason returned with the current concept — a cluster of mostly low-rise buildings in scale with the single-family homes nearby, rising to seven stories along Washington Street.
The developers still faced some obstacles with the revised plan. Building heights required several variances because they exceeded zoning codes. Some folks protested the loss of the handsome Howard family home, which sits in the East End Historic District.
Others worried about traffic problems. A member of the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission voted against it, saying the massing was out of scale with the neighborhood.
Nevertheless, three separate city agencies gave the project their blessing — the Municipal Planning Commission, Board of Zoning Appeals and Historic Landmarks Commission.
Mayor Danny Jones may have helped smooth the way by pledging the city’s support in January.
The developers say the project will help improve the entire neighborhood. “I’ve already seen one homeowner taking the grit off the side of his house,” Krason said.
“They [state officials] are talking about the new building on Washington Street, so that’s two significant developments in these four blocks. We’ve had discussions with the city about using federal transportation enhancement funds to dress up this end of the Washington Street corridor,” he said.
“It’s a small area, and it’s going to change in a positive way. Reintroducing this many residents in this area will accelerate the process,” he said.
To contact staff writer Jim Balow, use e-mail or call 348-5102.
A groundbreaking ceremony for “the boulevard at 2412,” the Howard family’s condominium project in the far East End, is planned Friday. For information, call 343-2412.
November 14th, 2007, 06:35 PM
FMC to demolish landmark steam plant (http://www.dailymail.com/story/Business/2007111435/FMC-to-demolish-landmark-steam-plant/)
By George Hohmann, Charleston Daily Mail, November 14, 2007
FMC Corp. plans to begin demolition of its old steam plant on MacCorkle Avenue in South Charleston later this month or in early December, said Jim Bodamer, the company's manager of remediation.
"We're pretty excited about it -- getting the steam plant down and returning that property to some beneficial use for the community," Bodamer said.
South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullins said, "I do know there's been some interest in the property from another company in the valley. I don't want to name them just yet. We're pretty excited and optimistic that the property will be redeveloped in the near future.
"We think that whole area in the east end of South Charleston, including Building 82, will be a big economic jump for us in the near future," Mullins said. Building 82 is a vacant 11-story office tower. The Dow Chemical Co. donated it to the University of Charleston last year.
In addition to demolishing the steam plant, FMC will tear down the plant's coal load out facilities on the bank of the Kanawha River and will remove the steam pipes that snake along the river to Clearon Corp. and cross MacCorkle Avenue to FMC's mothballed Spring Hill hydrogen peroxide plant, he said.
"We hope to get started by the end of November or early December and finish up in May," Bodamer said. When the work is complete, FMC will have between 7 and 8 acres available for sale. The steam plant sits on about one acre. It is at the far eastern end of FMC's land, next to The Dow Chemical Co.'s South Charleston plant. FMC's property runs west to the Joe Holland Service Center. Holland bought that land from FMC several years ago.
Asked if FMC has a buyer for its remaining property along the river, Bodamer said, "No we don't because we're still working in that entire area there."
He said the company is in the process of putting together a remedial action work plan. The company will submit its plan to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection at the beginning of next year.
"But the first thing we have to do is take down the steam plant," he said. "Because the plant has been there a long time, we've investigated what's around it but we have to take a look at what's underneath it. Once we do that, we will include that with the rest of the property running toward Joey Holland's Service Center. And, as we've done with the rest of the property, we'll clean that up and then look at our redevelopment opportunities."
Bodamer would not say exactly how much FMC will spend on the demolition, other than to say it will cost several million dollars. He said FMC last month selected Bianchi Industrial Services of Syracuse, N.Y., to do the demolition.
Bodamer, who works out of FMC's headquarters in Philadelphia, Pa., said he will meet with Bianchi executives in South Charleston on Thursday. "We'll just go over everything that needs to be done, our schedule. We'll discuss the different things that relate to the project." He said South Charleston officials and FMC's public advisory group are aware of the company's plans.
Bob Anderson, director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, "As business recruiter for South Charleston, I'm thrilled that they're going ahead and tearing down the plant because it's going to add more to the economic development possibilities for our downtown area.
"We get calls every day from people who want to do business in our downtown area and we're running out of space, so this is going to give us additional space for more businesses around the Mound," Anderson said.
Taking out the steam lines will be a boost for potential riverfront development, Anderson said. "The American Legion wants to develop a portion of the riverbank where old Lock 6 was located and this will help," he said. "The old steam lines are an eyesore."
FMC's property along the river was occupied by its East Plant, which was demolished in the 1980s. The property was the first to enter West Virginia's brownfields program, designed to help redevelop former industrial sites.
Over the past 13 years, FMC has cleaned up portions of the plant site and sold lots. An Advance Auto Parts store was built on a lot facing MacCorkle Avenue in 1994 and a Rite Aid pharmacy was built on a lot facing MacCorkle in 1998. Joey Holland built a service center on a 3.8-acre lot on D Street in 2002. C.E. White's Dodge and Kia dealerships were built on lots facing MacCorkle Avenue several years ago.
In 2001, FMC leased 1.7 acres behind the Holzer Clinic to Mound Properties. That property is vacant. Bodamer said that when the remainder of FMC's property is cleaned up, the lease to Mound Properties converts to a sale.
Last year FMC built a 0.13-mile road from the end of Joey Holland's service center to connect with Ashby Street and a road that runs behind C.E. White's dealerships. FMC's public advisory group named the new road "Brownfields Way."
The steam plant was built between 1910 and 1920, Bodamer said. It was shut down in 2003 -- the same year FMC mothballed its hydrogen peroxide plant. The closures resulted in the loss of 55 jobs. When FMC shut down the steam plant, the company said it was mothballing the facility. But in 2005 the company decided the plant had to be demolished.
The hydrogen peroxide plant remains in mothballs. Hydrogen peroxide production was shifted to a newer plant at Bayport, Texas. Hydrogen peroxide is brought to the Spring Hill plant from Texas, where it is distilled and distributed to customers.
November 20th, 2007, 12:59 AM
Changes to Boll building raise concerns (http://www.dailymail.com/story/News/2007111917/Changes-to-Boll-building-raise-concerns/)
Charleston Daily Mail, November 19, 2007
The plan to brick over the windows on the north side of the Boll Furniture building has raised questions about a loophole in city regulations.
Members of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority approved the proposal by Triana Energy in a special emergency meeting Nov. 2, although several people raised concerns about the project. Scaffolding now covers the north face of the building. Once the window openings are filled with brick, they'll likely stay that way for years, observers say.
While Triana and its architects followed all the rules, the project raises a broader issue: In the newly created downtown historic district, there is nothing to prevent an owner from drastically changing the appearance of his or her building - or tearing it down, for that matter.
You can't do that in the East End Historic District, where a detailed process called "design review" controls what you can and can't do with the outside of your building.
Along parts of Washington Street that fall in the East End and West Side Main Street districts, building owners can tap the services of a design consultant who can suggest ways to spiff up exteriors while maintaining the historic character. It's voluntary, but CURA board members seem to rely on the guidance of Main Street designer Mike Gioulis before approving renovations in those areas.
Lori Brannon of the city Planning Department raised the issue Thursday with the Historic Landmarks Commission. Brannon, who provides staff support to the commission, gave a brief synopsis of the Triana project.
"It really got me thinking, not just about this project," she said. "I got a lot of calls that morning, from people incorrectly thinking you all had design review [for the downtown historic area]. It's going to be some time before you have design review. So how can we effect preservation in other ways?"
She mentioned Gioulis' role as a paid consultant for Main Street programs across the state. "Mike comes in and finds out what [the owner's] needs are and draws up a plan," she said.
"But what if another project like this comes up, another significant building downtown. We need a Mike Gioulis. Can we have a consultant come in to work with owners?" she asked.
Brannon introduced Jeff Miller, a designer with the Fairmont-based Vandalia Heritage Foundation and a downtown resident. Miller had raised questions about the Boll building at the CURA meeting earlier this month.
"Vandalia primarily deals with North-Central West Virginia," Miller said. "It can be expanded."
Among other programs, the nonprofit group runs several historic preservation resource centers where owners can get advice, he said. "Guidelines for dealing with contractors - not always museum-quality preservation, but adaptive reuse. A lot of communities have this," he said.
"In Charleston, it may have to be a collaborative effort," he said. The Kanawha Valley Historical & Preservation Society might get involved, he said.
Although Charleston has a wealth of historic character, owners don't often try to preserve their buildings, he said, maybe because they think it isn't cost-effective.
November 20th, 2007, 01:01 AM
Landmarks group hears adaptive reuse idea (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007111821)
Property owners could gain free access to design consultants
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, November 19, 2007
Triana Energy’s plan to block off all the windows on the north side of the Boll Furniture building, which caught folks who care about preserving the city’s historic buildings a bit off guard, brings out an apparent loophole in city regulations.
Members of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority approved the proposal in a special emergency meeting Nov. 2, although several people raised questions about the project. Scaffolding now covers the north face of the building. Once the window openings are filled with brick, they’ll likely stay that way for years, observers say.
While Triana and its architects followed all the rules, the project raises a broader issue: In the newly created downtown historic district, there is nothing to prevent an owner from drastically changing the appearance of his or her building — or tearing it down, for that matter.
You can’t do that in the East End Historic District, where a detailed process called “design review” controls what you can and can’t do with the outside of your building.
Along parts of Washington Street that fall in the East End and West Side Main Street districts, building owners can tap the services of a design consultant who can suggest ways to spiff up exteriors while maintaining the historic character. It’s voluntary, but CURA board members seem to rely on the guidance of Main Street designer Mike Gioulis before approving renovations in those areas.
Lori Brannon of the city Planning Department raised the issue Thursday with the Historic Landmarks Commission. Brannon, who provides staff support to the commission, gave a brief synopsis of the Triana project.
“It really got me thinking, not just about this project,” she said. “I got a lot of calls that morning, from people incorrectly thinking you all had design review [for the downtown historic area]. It’s going to be some time before you have design review. So how can we effect preservation in other ways?”
She mentioned Gioulis’ role as a paid consultant for Main Street programs across the state. “Mike comes in and finds out what [the owner’s] needs are and draws up a plan,” she said.
“But what if another project like this comes up, another significant building downtown. We need a Mike Gioulis. Can we have a consultant come in to work with owners?” she asked.
Brannon introduced Jeff Miller, a designer with the Fairmont-based Vandalia Heritage Foundation and a downtown resident. Miller had raised questions about the Boll building at the CURA meeting earlier this month.
“Vandalia primarily deals with North-Central West Virginia,” Miller said. “It can be expanded.”
Among other programs, the nonprofit group runs several historic preservation resource centers where owners can get advice, he said. “Guidelines for dealing with contractors — not always museum-quality preservation, but adaptive reuse. A lot of communities have this,” he said.
“In Charleston, it may have to be a collaborative effort,” he said. The Kanawha Valley Historical & Preservation Society might get involved, he said.
Although Charleston has a wealth of historic character, owners don’t often try to preserve their buildings, he said, maybe because they think it isn’t cost-effective.
“It isn’t anybody’s fault. It just doesn’t happen. Maybe you could strike up an interest. I see this as something very important to the city,” Miller said.
Because Vandalia charges fees, owners of downtown buildings might be reluctant to use its services, Brannon said. Miller said the landmarks commission might seek grants to cover costs for a year or two.
“I guess what appeals to me is coming at it from a non-regulatory approach,” Brannon said, “being a partner with the owner and being seen as a partner.”
Landmarks commission members took no formal action on the issue but, at Chairman Billy Joe Peyton’s suggestion, will study it some more. “I’d like to see us have some sort of education session — a seminar, a workshop,” he said.
November 29th, 2007, 03:21 PM
UC penthouses already taken (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007112821)
University condo development needs deposits for construction
By Veronica Nett, Charleston Gazette, November 29, 2007
Potential buyers already have reserved all nine penthouse units in the University of Charleston’s proposed condominium project along the Kanawha River, school officials said Wednesday.
UC President Edwin Welch said the university must secure deposits for 15 of the 17 condos before it can move forward with construction of the $18 million project.
The five-story building will include 17 condos ranging from 2,000 to about 3,200 square feet, said Cleta Harless, UC vice president of administration and finance. Each condo will have a view of the river, the state Capitol and downtown Charleston, she said.
The condos, located near the corner of 19th Street and Kanawha Avenue behind Triana Field, sell from about $520,000 to $1.1 million.
“The finished package will include granite countertops and high-end fixtures, plus the view,” Harless said. “You can’t buy a view like this.”
Each condo also includes a balcony and garage parking with private elevator access directly to the unit, she said.
Welch said the university is targeting empty nesters who are looking to downsize as potential buyers.
“The first most likely candidates are couples who are ready to downsize from a large home to condo size and not have to worry so much about yard work or keeping up with a large place,” Welch said.
Based on the success of the initial building, Harless said, the university may build a second condominium building.
The project will benefit the university and the state, because it will provide an incentive to keep many of these empty nesters from possibly relocating to other states, Welch said.
Condominium owners also will have access to the UC fitness centers and pool, as well as being within walking distance of university activities, Harless said.
UC expects to make about $1 million from the initial sales of the condos, and each time a unit is resold the university will receive a profit, she said.
The university will hold the right of refusal to allow the condo owner to sell their unit. The university holds the right to purchase the condo from the homeowner for 20 percent below the market value, which would let UC try to sell the condo again for a 20 percent profit, Welch said.
UC is a tax-deductible organization, and condo owners who resell their unit to the university will receive a tax deduction, Harless said.
If the university decides to allow the homeowner to sell the condo, the condo owner will pay a $50,000 transaction fee, Welch said.
Harless said the project has received the approval of the Charleston Municipal Planning Commission and UC’s Board of Trustees.
Construction of the condominiums is expected to take about 18 months, Welch said. At the latest, construction should be complete by spring or summer of 2009, he said.
November 29th, 2007, 03:23 PM
Capitol garage repairs could cost nearly $4 million (http://dailymail.com/News/200711290008)
by The Associated Press, Charleston Daily Mail, November 29, 2007
West Virginia will not have to tear down its $5.6 million Capitol parking garage -- but repairs will still likely cost taxpayers nearly two-thirds the original price tag, officials said.
Despite failed welds and widespread disrepair blamed on chronic neglect, the state General Services Division believes it can stop short of rebuilding the 8-year-old structure, Director David Oliverio said.
Consultants last month estimated that repairing the four-story garage, including structural, electrical and plumbing work, would cost $3.9 million.
The agency plans to repair the garage with help from the original contractor, BBL Carlton, which has agreed to remedy all bad welds at its own cost, Oliverio told the interim Council of Finance and Administration.
Officials estimate BBL will cover about $280,000 of the total repair bill.
"BBL Carlton has really stepped up to the plate,'' Oliverio said. "There is a real spirit of cooperation.''
Oliverio also stressed that none of the welds at issue affect the structural integrity of the garage.
The council of lawmakers and Manchin cabinet officials also learned that inspectors have visited the garage at least four times since it opened. Problems linked to a lack of maintenance were reported, but to no avail, said BBL Vice President Keith McClanahan.
When Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, pressed for details, Administration Secretary Rob Ferguson said he did not know the dates of the inspections, except that they occurred before Gov. Joe Manchin took office in 2005.
"At that time, General Services had no one with an engineering degree,'' said Ferguson, a council member. "We had no one who could take those reports and turn them into corrective action.''
Oliverio said General Services has corrected another problem at the garage: for workers spread salt throughout it the first three years it was opened to remove ice and snow, a major no-no for concrete surfaces.
The agency's grounds manager stopped that practice when he came on board five years ago, Oliverio said.
The planned garage repairs also include replacing caulk throughout the structure. That should be happening at this point anyway, given its age, Oliverio said.
Helmick questioned whether recaulking and fixing nonstructural welds alone would salvage the garage. He also blamed the "fiasco'' on politics.
"What is so frustrating to me is that it gets passed from one administration to another,'' he said. "We're seeing it from the governor's mansion to the cultural center, to the greatest building in this state, which we're sitting in.''
The 54-acre Capitol Complex is undergoing an array of repairs, renovations and upgrades under a five-year master plan expected to cost at least $166 million. A number of projects address the campus' centerpiece, the marble and granite Capitol opened in 1932.
Ferguson contrasted the comprehensive maintenance schedule crafted by Oliverio and his staff with past practices of chronic neglect.
"These are not political issues. These are administrative issues,'' he told Helmick. "There was no scheduled maintenance on any of these buildings. None of them. We build a building, and then we walk away from it.''
December 5th, 2007, 12:30 AM
Dow to cease most research operations in W.Va. (http://dailymail.com/News/200712040012)
By George Hohmann, Daily Mail, December 4, 2007
The Dow Chemical Co.'s Union Carbide Corp. subsidiary today announced that it will cease most of its research and development operations in West Virginia.
The company will reduce its research staff at the South Charleston Technical Center from 250 to 100 over the next two years, Allan Fowler, Dow's top manager in West Virginia, said today.
The 150 jobs that will be eliminated are generally held by people with advanced degrees and typically pay $100,000 or more per year, Fowler said.
Fowler said it is "a difficult announcement for us," given the fact that the technical center has for decades been known as the Kanawha Valley's research and development jewel.
The 100 research jobs that will remain support Dow's most expensive assets at the technical center, its large-scale pilot plants and licensing businesses, Fowler said. "Will they be here 20 or 25 years from now? That's a valid question," he said. "We do not know how long they will be here. They are delivering technology to the company today, doing what they need to do. Just as we evaluate every asset on an ongoing basis, we'll continue to evaluate those."
Fowler said that when the downsizing announced today is complete, Dow will have 550 employees in West Virginia. "We still have a substantial manufacturing base" in the Kanawha Valley, he said. "This does not impact manufacturing or licensing."
Today's announcement was part of a series moves by Dow around the world that will result in a total reduction of about 1,000 jobs across several functions, geographies and businesses.
The company said in a prepared statement, "Across the functions, the most significant impact will be felt in research and development, particularly at the Union Carbide Corp. site at South Charleston, W.Va., and in our North American Customer Service group, primarily in Midland (Mich.)."
Dow spokeswoman Anne Ainsworth said an evaluation of the company's global assets shows that 70 percent of Dow's research and development assets are in the United States. "At this point, with Dow's growth and expansion globally, we needed to make sure our R&D activities and operations expanded to follow the company's growth and businesses and customers around the world," she said.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper called Dow's announcement sad. It is hard to accept, he said. "The idea that companies like this have profited greatly and then move their manufacturing overseas, then to follow it with their R&D, is a bitter pill," he said.
Employment at the tech center peaked in the late 1960s at about 3,600. In 1999, when Union Carbide celebrated the tech center's 50th anniversary, the tech center employed 1,900.
In August 1999, when Dow announced plans to buy Union Carbide Corp., Carbide employed a total of 2,409 people in the Kanawha Valley. After Dow completed the purchase in 2001, the company's West Virginia operations -- including the tech center -- went through a series of downsizings because of global market changes. Dow now employs about 800 in the Valley. That number was already scheduled to decrease by about 100 as a downsizing announced last year continues to occur.
Earlier this year, Dow gave West Virginia University 58 acres and several laboratories in the 681-acre technical park, including a 125,000-square-foot building currently used as a multi-tenant research and development incubator. Dow valued the gift at $25 million.
Fowler noted today that although Dow's presence at the tech center is shrinking, the presence of WVU; the Mid-Atlantic Technology Research and Innovation Center, known as MATRIC; West Virginia State University; and the Chemical Alliance Zone is growing.
"Perhaps this is the Phoenix of what's going to happen to the tech park over the next couple of years - that Union Carbide is going to be replaced by WVU and MATRIC," he said.
Dow Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Liveris said in a prepared statement, "These difficult, yet necessary decisions are part of our broader agenda to strengthen Dow's long-term competitiveness and drive transformational growth.
"We understand the uncertainty and anxiety that these decisions will cause our employees, their families and the impacted communities," Liveris said. "Our leadership teams will work closely with those affected to minimize the impact of these changes and to address questions and concerns."
December 6th, 2007, 03:27 AM
Taken from here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheaspeake_Tower). Normally I wouldn't cite this, especially since it appears its a copyright vio from a 12-year-old (long story), but does anyone have any information regarding this? Especially, given that there are  for citations...
* Location 405 Capitol St
* Coordinates 36°9′45.9″N 86°46′48.9″W / 36.16275, -86.78025Coordinates: 36°9′45.9″N 86°46′48.9″W / 36.16275, -86.78025
* Status Pending
* Groundbreaking 2012 (est.)
* Use Commercial
* Antenna/Spire 351 ft (106 m)
* Floor count 28
* Floor area 400,000 sq ft (30,000 m²)
* Cost US$50-70 million
Unknown Chesapeake Tower is a projected Commercial skyscraper which has been approved for construction in Charleston,West Virginia, United States. Groundbreaking is currently scheduled for 2012. When completed, it will contain condominiums, office space, a Hyatt Place hotel, and retail space. The building will have 28 stories and will stand 351 feet (106 m) in height, making it the tallest buildings in the West Virginia. The Chesapeake Tower is being developed by Chesapeake,Inc. at an estimated cost of US$50 to 70 million. The building's physical address will be 405 Capitol Street, located at the old Daniel Boone Hotel. Chesapeake announced on July 18, 2006 that it had slated Davis Construction Co. of San Francisco to complete the project.
Construction progress has been somewhat hampered due to various costs. While excavation of the building's sub-levels is expected to proceed by the end of 2007, construction of the building itself has been delayed until half of the 50 residential apartment units have been sold. The Federal Aviation Administration filed a notice on October 25, 2007 stating that the proposed design was too tall and would pose a hazard to aircraft. The agency recommended that the tower not exceed 300 ft (132 m), or less than half its proposed height. However, Chesapeake has stated that no design changes are planned, and the Central West Virginia Airport Authority has lent its support to the construction project, saying they will look into ways to alter flight patterns.
December 7th, 2007, 11:23 PM
^ Never mind, a hoax.
Road closure forces demolition of historic building (http://dailymail.com/News/200712060103)
Charleston Daily Mail, December 6, 2007
BLUEFIELD -- Mayor Linda Whalen says Bluefield officials tried every available option but they can't save a historic building that partially collapsed.
About a third of the west side of the Old People's Bank collapsed in rubble last month. No one was injured, but Princeton Avenue beside the building was closed to traffic.
Whalen says the road is a major route and can't remain closed. She says losing the 1895 brownstone is heartbreaking.
City Manager Mark Henne says the building could be demolished as early as Friday. Empire Salvage submitted the apparent low bid of $52,863.
The collapse has prompted city officials to consider adopting an ordinance regulating vacant buildings.
December 12th, 2007, 03:38 PM
Putnam’s largest development begins (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007120917)
Some townhouses, luxury apartments could be done by summer
By Alison Knezevich, Charleston Gazette, December 10, 2007
As soon as next month, workers will start laying foundations for Putnam County’s largest housing development ever.
They will keep building over the next decade or more. Eventually, 837 upscale apartments, townhouses, condos and homes will sprawl over 110 acres just off Hedrick Road in Scott Depot.
“A lot’s gone into making this happen,” said Todd Dofflemyer, vice president of development for Cathcart Properties, the Charlottesville, Va.- based firm building the development.
Four years ago, Cathcart — which specializes in luxury apartments — began exploring the Putnam market, he said. “We kind of saw it as a diamond in the rough.”
The development, called Devonshire, will include 534 luxury rental apartments, 174 townhouses, 70 condominiums and 59 single-family lots — a total of $136 million in property.
Dofflemyer hopes to attract both renters and buyers by pitching the convenience of Devonshire’s location between Charleston and Huntington and its proximity to the new U.S. 35 interchange.
“We wanted to try to get as close to that interchange as possible,” he said.
Potential residents include empty-nesters who want to downsize their homes and young professional couples and singles, he said.
They’ll have access to a “clubhouse” containing a 1,500-square-foot gym, massage room, billiards parlor, business center, conference room, movie theater and executive chef’s kitchen.
Those amenities won’t come cheap. The apartments will cost from $860 to more than $1,300 a month, depending the number of bedrooms and other features.
Dofflemyer said he isn’t worried about the nation’s currently troubled housing market.
“Our core focus is rental apartments,” he said.
In October, earthwork began at the site, which once was family-owned farmland. By the summer of 2008, some of the apartments and townhouses could be finished, Dofflemyer said.
“It’s very tentative, because we’re moving dirt in the middle of the winter,” Dofflemyer said, adding that a dozen people are on a waiting list for townhouses.
In the first two years of construction, workers could complete the first 168 apartments and between 40 and 60 townhouses, he said.
The anticipated influx of people into Devonshire could influence the surrounding area in several ways.
Over the next eight years, county schools’ enrollment could increase by 156 students, according to a study Cathcart submitted to the county planning office.
Over the next 20 years, the project could generate $29 million in tax revenues, Dofflemyer said.
And a densely populated area such as Devonshire could help trigger commercial development in Putnam County, said state Sen. Mike Hall, R-Putnam.
When investors think about opening stores, restaurants and other business in a particular place, they strongly consider who lives in the area, Hall said.
“When they look at the demographics, they look at a five-mile radius around an exit,” said Hall, who has helped the Cathcart developers set up meetings with various local officials.
Building in West Virginia is more expensive than in other states where Cathcart has worked, Dofflemyer said. Labor, materials and earthwork all cost more, he said.
“The costs over there have been quite a bit more than we’re accustomed to in Virginia,” he said. “Our costs are a lot higher than we anticipated.”
Devonshire will be slightly smaller than developers originally planned. The firm was approved to build 844 units over 11 years.
Now, they plan to build 837 total units over nine years.
“That’s as fast as we can do it,” Dofflemyer said. “We don’t know if we can hit that. We think it may take anywhere from between eight and 12 years.”
The developers decided on fewer units to save money on earthwork, he said.
“We redesigned the site to minimize our cuts and fills,” he said.
Cathcart has not finalized plans for the single-family lots, he said. They might sell the lots to another developer; build the infrastructure and then sell it; or develop the land and build the homes.
December 15th, 2007, 05:22 AM
Urban renewal agency approves signs promoting new Charleston library (http://dailymail.com/News/200712130190)
Charleston Daily Mail, December 13, 2007
The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority has approved the placement of signs promoting the future location of a new downtown library.
Authority members gave the green light to The Library Foundation of Kanawha County to paint a mural on the north face of the Fibernet building on Leon Sullivan Way. The rough brick wall was exposed recently when the burned-out shell of the former General Seafood restaurant was torn down.
The sign could go up as early as next month.
CURA members also allowed the foundation to hang a vinyl banner on the wall for up to a year, or possibly longer if the banner stays in good shape.
Mary Kay Bond, a library foundation board member, requested permission to hang the banner for at least 60 days. She said the group might substitute a different banner at a later date.
Pat Brown, CURA director, said after he studied Urban Renewal and city sign regulations, he determined the banner need not be considered a temporary sign. Temporary signs usually can be displayed no more than 30 days at a time or a total of 90 days per year.
The size of both the banner and mural fits city rules, but the logos on the signs exceed the 30-inch maximum normally allowed.
Foundation President Tom Heywood said the group is trying to raise $50 million to build and renovate libraries across the county - $25 million each in public and private money.
So far it has raised $14 million in private funds and $1 million from the Kanawha County Commission, he said.
"This sign will do an awful lot to making this a reality, for passing motorists," Heywood said.
Also Wednesday, CURA members approved facade renovation plans for the Hale, Virginia and Dickinson street sides of the former Boll Furniture building. The new owners, Doublet Enterprises LLC, are fixing it up as offices for Triana Energy LLC.
Aric Margolis of Associated Architects said stone or pre-cast stone will be wrapped around the first level of the building to give it a new look, and 42 windows will be added on the Dickinson Street side.
Designers are still working out final details of a steel and glass pedestrian bridge that will connect the second floor of the building with the city's parking garage, across Dickinson Street, Margolis said.
The bridge will require two columns on the sidewalk beside the garage and two more abutting the Boll building, he said.
After meeting in closed session, CURA members granted another extension to law firm Bailey & Glasser LLC, which has a contract to buy the former McCrory department store building at 209 Capitol St.
The firm first agreed to buy the building in March 2006 as expansion space for its offices a few doors up the street.
Bailey & Glasser officials are awaiting approval from the National Park Service for their renovation plans, Brown said. They hope to qualify for historic renovation tax credits to help pay for the project. The new deadline for closing on the purchase is Feb. 19.
December 19th, 2007, 05:24 PM
Verizon, Maier giving $500,000 each to library (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2007121813)
By Bob Schwarz, Charleston Gazette, December 19, 2007
The Maier Foundation and Verizon West Virginia have given $500,000 each to the Kanawha County Public Library for a planned new downtown Charleston library and six replacement, expanded or renovated libraries elsewhere in the county.
“My grandfather always told me that a book was a gift that would be opened more than once,” said B. Keith Fulton, the new president of Verizon West Virginia, which employs 1,000 people locally and 2,300 across the state. “Every important place in our lives has books in it: our homes, our schools, our churches.”
The Energy Corporation of America Foundation gave $250,000, bringing the total of privately raised money to $15 million, library officials announced at a Tuesday morning news conference.
The project has an estimated price tag of $50 million, half to be raised privately, half publicly.
“Libraries are our modern-day treasure chests that hold millions of books and exciting resources,” Fulton said.
In addition to the privately raised money, the Central West Virginia Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau recently pledged $1 million, which is the first public money to come to the project. Both Kanawha County Commissioner Kent Carper and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones serve on that group’s governing board.
In a related development, library officials unveiled an architect’s sketch for the 5,500-square-foot building that will replace the 429-square-foot Marmet library. The new library will go on a nearly one-acre parcel the town has donated on MacCorkle Avenue beside Marmet Elementary School.
A new downtown library will cost an estimated $40 million, said Tom Heywood, the Charleston lawyer who is leading the fundraising campaign. The new 135,000-square-foot library would stand three stories high on Lee Street across from the post office and diagonally across from the Clay Center and have 75 parking spaces, a number that has dwindled as the plot has shrunk from 4.5 acres to less than 4 acres.
Another $10 million would go to replace libraries in Marmet and Elk Valley, expand nearly new buildings in Cross Lanes and Sissonville, and renovate and expand older buildings in St. Albans and Dunbar.
The price tag has not changed on the project since fundraising began in April 2006. Heywood said he intends to raise another $10 million — the rest of the private money — by the end of 2008.
he Clay Foundation has promised $5 million for the project. The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation has pledged $1 million.
He hopes to raise more public money directly from the city, county, state and federal governments before asking voters to approve the rest in the form of a bond issue.
Cindy Miller, the library’s in-house person in charge of raising the money, hopes for a bond vote in the spring of 2009, ceremonial groundbreaking shortly thereafter and construction to begin later that year. Completion of the Charleston project would occur in 2011 and the other projects by the end of 2012.
“The referendum normally has language that requires completion within a specified time frame,” Miller said, “It might be a busy couple of years once we begin construction.”
Later this month, library officials will complete the purchase of a third parcel of the roughly 15 needed. (The footprint that began with the purchase of the General Seafood property isn’t final yet.)
The latest purchase would be the second of three Dickinson Street properties needed for a swap with the post office for the parking lot opposite the post office. The library people have a memorandum of understanding with the post office about the swap.
December 19th, 2007, 05:25 PM
^ See other update above.
Library announces major progress on new site (http://dailymail.com/News/200712180270)
By Kelly L. Holleran, Daily Mail, December 18, 2007
The new Kanawha County Library is closer to becoming a reality with the acquisition of two major parcels of land earlier this month, the expected closing on a third piece of land and the donations of about $15 million in total private funding, The Library Foundation of Kanawha County President Tom Heywood announced at a press conference this morning.
He also announced plans for a new branch of the Kanawha County Public Library in Marmet.
Library officials are due to close on a third piece of property on Lee Street later this month, which the Post Office currently uses to park employee vehicles.
The property is a little more than two acres, Heywood said.
To get the land, library officials had to purchase property on Dickenson Street. They then traded that property for the Lee Street land so that post office employees would still have a place to park.
Library officials closed on two parcels of land earlier this month. They eventually hope to purchase 10 pieces of land for the main library and room for 75 parking spaces, Heywood said.
Heywood also announced private donations for the library have reached $15 million, more than half of the $25 million in private donations officials are hoping to raise.
"We want to keep this up and push right on through to $25 million," Heywood said.
Library officials hope to have raised $50 million through both public and private donations by December 2008, Heywood said.
The main library will cost about $30 million, Heywood estimates. Acquisition of land should cost about $10 million, and improvements to branches should cost about $10 million.
They hope to break ground on the new main library in 2009 or 2010, he said.
He announced three private donors at the conference.
Energy Corporation of America gave $250,000, the Maier Foundation donated $500,000 and Verizon West Virginia donated $500,000.
Marmet will also have a new library branch, which will be immediately adjacent to Marmet Elementary School on 94th Street, Heywood said.
The Marmet branch will not be built until after the construction of the main library is complete.
There are nine branches in Kanawha County, Heywood said.
Of those, six are being expanded and improved, he said. Marmet and Elkview will get brand new library branches.
"This is a project that will have county-wide implications," Heywood said. "Acquiring sites is important and is not always easy in this topographically challenged county we live in. Library usage is up across the country. The demand is huge - every facility is busting at the seams. These facilities are all badly needed."
January 7th, 2008, 03:44 AM
AEP site giveaway detailed (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2008010321)
Vacant building in surprising shape, officials say
By Rusty Marks, Charleston Gazette, January 4, 2007
Smooth, earth-toned slabs of marble and the crunch of shoes on the terrazzo floor are the first things to greet visitors to American Electric Power’s vacant office building on Virginia Street.
Kanawha County officials took a tour of the massive downtown building on Thursday. After years of negotiations, officials for AEP should soon be able to donate the structure to the county to use as office and storage space.
With well over 20,000 square feet, and a two-story parking building and office space right next door, the old AEP building should give county officials plenty of growing space and a chance to consolidate paperwork and equipment that’s scattered all over Kanawha County.
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Sheriff Mike Rutherford already plans to move almost the entire Sheriff’s Department into the new facility. County Commission President Kent Carper is already talking about renovations and leasing out part of the building to help pay the bills.
Built in the 1930s right next to the Kanawha County Courthouse, the AEP building is a perfect example of overbuilt, ornate mid-20th century architecture. Marble lines the stairwells, the restrooms are decked out in ceramic tile, and terrazzo lies everywhere underfoot, waiting patiently under a layer of carpeting and tile in most parts of the three-story building.
Leaves from a long forgotten office plant crunch underfoot in one of the labyrinthine offices, and the carcasses of petrified wasps inhabit another. But despite crumbling plasterwork around some of the windows and the spider webs of old wiring that sprout willy-nilly from the floors, the building proves an old adage.
They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
“This is in a lot better shape than I anticipated,” said Chief Deputy Johnny Rutherford, who saw the inside of the main building for the first time on Thursday.
“It looks small from the outside,” said Carper. But the deceptive-looking building has enough room to last the county for years.
“We’re going to have to take this in sensible, staged phases,” Carper said Thursday. By using as much grant money as possible, using in-house and free labor and leasing out space to cut costs, he hopes to cover utilities and upkeep on the building.
“I would like to see a majority of it restored,” he said.
Evidence of 1930s chic abounds within the building and parking garage. A massive vault takes up part of the first floor of the main building, decked out with tall wooden ladders fitted with ornate casters. Walk into one of the stalls in the tile-appointed restrooms, turn the knob on the stall door, and the word “engaged” pops up on the outside of the door in a little metal window.
The period parking building is nearly as impressive. Downstairs is a parking bay with space for about 20 cars, with indoor and outdoor parking upstairs for even more vehicles. There’s a massive steel beam with a creeper for an engine hoist and a wash bay right inside. Sheriff Mike Rutherford said the wash bay alone could save the county $10,000 a year in costs to wash police cars.
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But the building also contains thousands of square feet of carpeted, painted and pre-wired office space. “You could move in tomorrow,” Carper said.
Like visions of sugarplums dancing in the heads of children on Christmas Eve, the sheriff and chief deputy were talking Thursday about evidence rooms and interrogation rooms and space to store and sift through evidence. Just the parking bay would allow the sheriff a central place to keep the county’s three bomb trucks, SWAT truck and bomb trailer.
“We have all this equipment, but we’ve got it scattered all over the county,” Mike Rutherford said.
AEP officials want to give the building to the county outright, but there are a few requirements that must be met.
Groundwater underneath the building is contaminated, and AEP staff must keep monitoring the site until environmental officials give them a clean bill of health. AEP must also be able to get to equipment and meeting space they still use in the facility.
The donation must also be approved by AEP’s board of directors and the state Public Service Commission. But if all goes well, county officials hope to start moving in after a couple of months.
January 7th, 2008, 06:53 PM
City’s parking garages need a $4 million fix (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2008010611)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, January 7, 2007
Charleston’s six city parking garages, particularly the ones by the Greyhound bus terminal and the Charleston Civic Center, need about $4 million of repairs and improvements, a recent report says.
The good news is none of the garages have any emergency structural problems that pose safety problems and require immediate fixes, the report by consultant Carl Walker Inc. says.
The bad news is the city’s self-supporting parking system does not have nearly enough money to cover the repairs, and may have to issue revenue bonds, said City Manager David Molgaard.
Molgaard and other city officials are just starting to digest the final consultant’s report, which they received the last week of December. City Council members hired the Indianapolis-based firm in September after another engineer found problems in the Civic Center and bus station garages, both built in 1981.
“Obviously we’ll have to pore through the report and come up with a strategy of what has to be done when and how we pay for it,” Molgaard said last week, after meeting with Parking Director Alana Minear and City Engineer Chris Knox. “We haven’t done that yet.
“Right now we’re working on our budget for next year. [Garage repairs] will be a major concern. We’ll anticipate putting something before council in February, so in the next four to six weeks we should have a game plan.”
The consultants estimate all recommended repairs, including one year of preventive maintenance ($164,000), will cost $4,115,270. But the city will probably spread out the work over several years; the consultants suggested two scenarios to do just that.
For each garage, the consultants ranked each item into one of three categories. Priority 1 items, like structural repairs and waterproofing, should be done first. Priority 3 items, like repainting of lines, can be put off for a year or two.
The city’s No. 3 Garage (the Greyhound garage) had the largest price tag — $1.04 million — with the smaller No. 4 garage (Civic Center) close behind at $975,000.
One of the biggest expenses is waterproofing, an item that apparently had been neglected in recent years. All six garages need some work to prevent water from seeping into cracks and causing further damage — either repairs to the seals between concrete joints or new deck sealant, or both.
As city officials expected, the Civic Center and Greyhound garages need Priority 1 structural repairs to reinforce the joints between concrete beams that have corroded because of water damage. A previous consultant warned them about the problem.
Knox, the city engineer, seemed unsurprised by the findings or the cost estimates. “We just spent $1.2 million on this [McFarland Street] garage a few years ago, and $800,000 on No. 2,” he said. The city’s oldest parking garages had structural problems similar to those in No. 3 and No. 4.
But the recommendations go beyond simple repairs. “One of the things we’re going to do is new lighting,” said Minear, who has been running the parking system for just over a year.
Garages 1, 2, 3 and 4 all use inefficient, expensive sodium lamps, she said, that don’t work well in cold weather. “Each of the sulfur lights costs $200 to replace. “We’re looking at ways to save money on lighting, energy-efficient ways to light our garages,” she said.
The new lighting systems don’t come cheap — $200,000 or more per garage — but will save money in the long run, she said.
At the city’s request, the consultants also drew up a detailed list of routine maintenance items to be done each year. Among other things, the list includes things like lubricating all doors, checking doors for corrosion, painting and restriping, and cleaning and flushing of drains.
Much of that is old news, Minear said. “We wash down every spring because of the calcium chloride [road salt] the city puts down. All of those things, with the exception of major things like waterproofing, we already do on a regular basis.”
Under the consultants’ first option, the city would spend about $1.5 million this year and next, $830,000 in fiscal year 2010 and $164,000 for routine maintenance in subsequent years.
Option 2, which Knox said is more likely, calls for $1.3 million this year, $1.38 million in 2009 and $1.58 million in 2010.
The parking system has about $900,000 set aside for repairs and maintenance, Molgaard said. City workers might tackle some of the work and save the city money, he said.
“Thirdly, we have to determine time frames for any major repairs.” Some might be done this fiscal year, which ends June 30, he said.
“If we did everything for year one, we would have to find an additional funding source, like a revenue bond. Any bonds would be tied to revenue from the parking system. That would be the preferable method, obviously.”
The city is already paying off existing parking garage bonds through parking system revenues, Molgaard said. Yet if new bonds were issued, parking rates wouldn’t necessarily have to be raised, he said. “We’re not talking about a major bond issue here.”
January 8th, 2008, 11:11 PM
City garage repair questions abound (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2008010722)
Charleston council members ask about state of disrepair
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, January 8, 2007
On a night filled with routine city business, several members of the Charleston City Council wondered why parking garages need millions of dollars in repairs.
Councilwoman Cheryle Hall, at the end of a Finance Committee meeting Monday evening, asked whether council members will get a synopsis of a recent consultant’s report on the city’s parking garages. As outlined in a Charleston Gazette article Monday morning, consultant Carl Walker Inc. recommended more than $4 million in repairs and improvements to the six city-owned garages.
City Manager David Molgaard said the administration requested the study. “We knew there would be issues,” he said. “We wanted to be proactive.” City officials wanted to identify any problems and fix them before any more-expensive structural damage occurs, he said.
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“A lot of it is just sealing the garages, and we can’t do that until we do major repairs.”
Councilman Cubert Smith asked if the city will start to do regular maintenance on the garages. “To be biting this kind of bullet because of neglect is kind of bad,” he said. “What is being done to keep these buildings from deteriorating?”
That’s why the city asked for the study, Molgaard said. “We’ll be setting up a routine maintenance schedule.”
The estimated price tag for all repairs and improvements — about $4 million — is more than the city can afford to take on all at once, he said. “The consultant gave us options of doing this over three years.” The most critical safety-related items need to be addressed in the next six to 12 months, he said.
Councilman Harry Deitzler said the city’s garages have held up better than some newer ones in Charleston, like the one at the state Capitol.
Later, during the regular council meeting, City Council members agreed to apply again for federal transportation grant money for the Kanawha trestle bike trail project. State officials, who allocate the federal funds, have turned down three previous applications.
This year the city will ask for about $500,000, said project coordinator Dennis Strawn, about the same as last year. Trail backers already have about $1.4 million on hand for the project, he said.
In other business, council members agreed to buy a number of vehicles for different city departments — the most expensive a $349,317 fire truck that pumps 2,000 gallons of water a minute.
Other vehicles include a bucket truck with a chipper body for Public Grounds ($84,500) and three dump trucks for the Street Department (about $90,000 each).
January 9th, 2008, 06:14 PM
City panel to focus on Slack Plaza (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2008010817)
Edgewood marker designs approved
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, January 9, 2007
Members of the Municipal Beautification Commission have decided to try to come up with new ideas for Slack Plaza, basically because no one else seems to be doing anything about it.
Slack Plaza was a hot topic last year after Mayor Danny Jones installed pointed metal “loafer rails” on the park’s retaining walls to try to keep folks from loitering and hassling people — especially women — who walk by. Others were upset that city crews had cut down mature Bradford pear trees in the park.
In April, Jones named several City Council members, Beautification Chairwoman Mary Jane Vanderwilt and others to a special committee to study ways to improve Slack Plaza. Jones, who had previously asked for the commission’s ideas on Slack Plaza, met with the group the following day to explain why he formed the group. Since then, though, little has happened.
Lewis Payne, both a Beautification and City Council member, raised the topic at the commission’s monthly Tuesday. “I talked to [Jones’ assistant] Rod Blackstone,” he said. “An ad hoc committee was put together, but they haven’t really met. It’s my feeling the responsibility should fall back to this commission.
“My feeling is the space doesn’t have enough green in it. It’s all pavers.” Payne suggested replacing the plaza’s nonfunctioning fountains with rolling grass hills like those in Davis Park.
Tom Vasale, the city’s longtime horticultural consultant, said he joined the city in the 1980s just before Slack Plaza was built. “It was supposed to be a contrast to Davis Park, a place where vendors could sell. ... That was fine in its day, but that day was more than 20 years ago.”
Vasale said he was in charge of renting space to vendors. “There was a time when we were constantly being contacted by people wanting space on Slack Plaza, the Lee Street Triangle and Davis Park. We don’t see that anymore.
“I think it would be smart to request funds in next year’s budget for a professional redesign. Anything we do would be makeshift.”
Vanderwilt said commission members would need to work with the mayor’s office on the project. “Remember, the reason the mayor’s upset is it needs to be a walkway and it’s become a hangout.”
In other business, Beautification members approved the design of two proposed signs to mark the entrance to the Edgewood Historic District on the West Side. The brass signs, to be mounted on stucco and stone bases, are to be placed at the bottom of the hill along Edgewood and Springdale drives.
Architect David Marshall designed the markers for, and with the help of, the Edgewood Garden Club. Fairly large — more than 7 feet tall and wide at the base — they were designed in the Craftsman style typical of the neighborhood, he said.
The garden club will need to sign an agreement with the city engineer’s office and be responsible for upkeep, Traffic Engineer George Robson said. City officials will check to make sure the signs are placed on city property and don’t obstruct vision, he said.
January 16th, 2008, 07:30 PM
Capitol food court promoted for evening receptions, events (http://www.wvgazette.com/section/News/2008011517)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, January 16, 2008
Now that the old Capitol cafeteria has a new, upscale décor — thanks to a $3.7 million makeover — Administration Secretary Robert Ferguson told lawmakers he hopes to see legislative receptions, dinners, and other evening events held there.
“I really believe you could have black-tie events downstairs. It’s that kind of quality,” he told the House Finance Committee Tuesday.
However, the department later clarified that those receptions will have to be alcohol-free.
“There’s no plans to pursue liquor or beer or wine licenses,” Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley said Tuesday afternoon.
The state’s contract with Guest Services Inc. of Fairfax, Va., gives the company rights to operate the food court in the Capitol basement and a proposed café in the Cultural Center, as well as nonexclusive rights to provide catering anywhere in the Capitol Complex.
Delegate Tom Campbell, D-Greenbrier, raised the question of any plans to use the new facility for evening receptions.
He noted that, in the past, various groups held legislative breakfasts and lunches at the old cafeteria, although the old facility was not considered suitable for evening receptions.
Ferguson said it’s in the state’s interest to encourage receptions and dinners at the food court.
Under the contract with Guest Services, the state receives a 3 percent commission for all sales up to $1.5 million a year, and a 5 percent commission on sales in excess of $1.5 million, including catering.
“Obviously, we want to make this dining facility successful for us as well as for the vendor,” he said.
Ferguson said the department would be promoting the new facility in the coming weeks, including distributing menus and other information to the various agencies at the Capitol Complex.
The food court serves breakfast and lunch weekdays.
February 4th, 2008, 03:29 AM
Charleston's Past, Future Included in Redevelopment (http://www.statejournal.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=33134&catid=283)
Officials work to find new ways to use old spaces and protect history in its plans.
By Ann Ali, State Journal, January 7, 2008
CHARLESTON -- Finding new ways to use old spaces, protecting history and maintaining each piece in an overarching vision for the city are keys to Charleston putting its best foot forward, local officials said.
As the city looks to 2008 and beyond, projects that tie existing attractions with economic development are on the radar.
"If you heavily invest with public improvements, then the private investment will follow. And then we did several incentives to make that happen," said Susie Salisbury, with the Charleston Area Alliance.
The Charleston Town Center mall located in downtown Charleston in the late '70s, and the Alliance's forerunner, the former Charleston Renaissance Corp. formed in the early 1980s to keep an eye on downtown development.
Salisbury said she looks at redevelopment much like a game of chess -- something that needs strategic planning.
"There was a study done that said you need to look at anchors," she said. "You've got your western anchor with the mall ... your southern anchor needs to be the redevelopment of the riverfront, the northern end was the farmers' market, and the eastern end was ... the Clay Center.
'Look At All These Gems'
Salisbury said the redevelopment focus now is an effort to connect the downtown dots.
"Now it's probably time for us to look at all these gems, and we've begun to string some of them together," she said. "If those projects are out there brewing, how can we really leverage those?"
One agency that plays a part in redevelopment is the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, which the state Legislature created in the 1950s.
"We work now with the Charleston Area Alliance, the city engineering department, different city departments," Executive Director Pat Brown said. "We do buy land that is blighted, if you will, and we also have property available for redevelopment."
Brown said the Authority's mission is two fold.
"One is to get rid of eyesores and, two, to provide land," he said. "We usually put signs on our property. We get direct calls, referrals from the Alliance as well as the city, and we all work together."
The Authority is unique because it is the state's only agency that can use eminent domain for private redevelopment.
"We don't use it very often, but we do use it," Brown said. "There is an extensive procedure, and we certainly don't want to abuse it."
Health Department Ponders Move
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is looking to the public to help decide whether and where to move.
"The initial idea came basically from the (Kanawha) County Commission and from Mayor (Danny) Jones," said Health Department Executive Director Dr. Kerry Gateley.
"They suggested to the Board of Health they might be able to create an opportunity for a commercial property here that would augment the Civic Center ... and the question was raised as to whether we would be willing to move the Health Department somewhere else to make way for that.
"We are giving that proposal very serious consideration, but really whether or not we move depends entirely on what alternative plans we can make."
Gateley said the Health Department, in his view, isn't a building but people, programs and services. However, he's not an architect, and relocating would be a major project.
"We're part of the community," he said. "We want the community to prosper.
"The commissioners have publicly stated that if we can't come to some sort of arrangement that is satisfactory to everyone, all the Board of Health needs to do is say no, so in that spirit of cooperation we've continued to investigate."
He said the public response on the Health Department's Web site has included property suggestions and developers offering to fit property to the Department's needs. Gateley said his goal is to provide the board with two or three site suggestions, and the County Commission has offered to give the Board the proceeds from sale of the current site.
Library Looks to New Site
As the ornate libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie in the early 20th century fall behind technological evolution, libraries nationwide are receiving facelifts, according to Tom Heywood, president of The Library Foundation of Kanawha County Inc.
The Kanawha County Library plans to build a new library a few blocks east of its current site on Capitol Street.
Heywood said the new neighborhood has expressed excitement for the library's move -- even Huntington Bank, which will lose part of its drive-through.
"Because of the anchoring effect on that end of town, this will really create vibrant growth on that block, and it will link the downtown to the east end," he said. "If you think about it, really, a main entry to Charleston is Leon Sullivan Way.
"No matter which street you turn down, you will be in a great community."
Heywood said each community has a different rhythm and pace, and other cities in West Virginia are working on redevelopment, but Charleston has been fortunate to have the successful Urban Renewal Authority.
"It's not just ... keeping appearances up," he said. "I think it's far more than that. Preserving the past is an important part of our success, but also imagining the future we could have."
Charleston for Conventions
Jones said the city needs to make the Civic Center bigger and better with a new hotel that may become reality within the next year.
Other projects may follow.
"We have money in our CVB war chest, part of which may go for an airline," Jones said. "There's an airline looking to start up here and make Charleston kind of a hub. I don't know if it's going to work or not, but the CVB has half a million to put into that if it goes forward.
"We also have money we're putting out to groups that are willing to come here. That's what other cities have been doing for years, and now we are able to do it."
Jones said redevelopment has worked well for the city lately.
"The Clay Center -- I remember when they sold cars over there," he said.
He also cited development of Appalachian Power Park, home of the West Virginia Power South Atlantic League team.
"When I was running for mayor in 2003, we did some polling, and 74 percent of the people were opposed, but now you'd be hard pressed to find too many people who would say they were opposed to having baseball in Charleston," Jones said.
The mayor also said the city expects to receive federal money to pay for construction of a retractable roof over Haddad Riverfront Park along the Kanawha River.
February 5th, 2008, 03:25 PM
Area hospital has already started on $70 million addition (http://dailymail.com/News/200802040127)
By George Hohmann, Daily Mail, February 4, 2008
Thomas Memorial Hospital has started work on a $70 million, six-floor addition that will add four operating rooms, a new cafeteria, 19 private rooms for obstetrical patients and 96 private rooms for other patients.
"We've already done some pre-construction work," said Steve Dexter, Thomas Memorial's president and chief executive officer.
For example, he said, the hospital has moved its loading dock in preparation for construction. Actual construction will probably start in April and will last about two years, he said. The aim is to be finished on May 10, 2010. That would be six years to the day from when Thomas cut the ribbon on its Medical Pavilion office building.
"This project is demand-driven, not dream-driven," Dexter said. "We're building because we're having more patients and more doctors coming to Thomas Memorial. During the winter, typically, our emergency room is jammed to the gills. We have more surgeons coming who need to have operating room time. Some are booked three or four weeks out. We've more than doubled the number of births we have here in the last 10 years. We're building to take care of the patients who are already asking us to take care of them."
The addition will be built to the right of the Medical Pavilion. The Vine Street entrance to the pavilion, where the Starbucks coffee shop is located, will become the hospital's main entrance.
Dexter said the addition will be bigger than the original hospital, which was built from 1944 to 1946.
"The ground floor will have a new cafeteria," he said. "It will replace the one we now have, which was built in the 1950s. When you go to the hospital to visit, you spend time in the hospital room visiting your loved one and in the cafeteria visiting with family. We want to upgrade to modern spaces where patients and families can feel comfortable in a nice atmosphere."
There also will be a lot of support space for surgery on the ground floor, he said.
The first floor will feature four operating rooms, representing a 44-percent increase in the hospital's operating room capacity. Dexter said each operating room will cost at least $1 million. The expansion is needed for several reasons, he said. One is the fact that Thomas Memorial has more doctors.
"Last year we recruited 23 doctors," he said. "We've recruited nine this year and will probably end up with 15 or 16. When you recruit a surgeon, they need operating room time. We need more operating room space."
Other reasons are, the community Thomas Memorial serves is getting older and sicker and more can be done to help.
In the past, many conditions were not readily treatable and "it used to be, you would have to live with it," Dexter said. "But now they can try to fix problems with less invasive ways."
He described a recent patient who had a triple aneurysm. "In the past you would take him to the operating room, cut him open, patch it up and put him in the intensive care unit for a week," Dexter said. "He might spend a total of two weeks in the hospital."
But Dr. John Deel took care of this patient in Thomas Memorial's catheterization lab. "You know they (physicians) gain access through a leg artery. They run a tiny wire with a tube, shoot dye, identify the aneurysm, then run another wire with an expandable stent. The doctor put four stents in the guy and he went home Tuesday. What was a two-week stay in the hospital is now an overnight stay."
The second floor will contain 19 private rooms for obstetrical patients.
"Having a baby is a joyous time but also a private time," Dexter said. "When you come in and have your baby, you'll have your own room. It'll be a private room. But we know that in our state, family is important. So these rooms will be family-friendly."
The second floor also will have a nursery and two Caesarean-section operating rooms.
Each of the top three floors will have 32 private rooms, for a total of 96. That will allow the hospital to convert all of its other medical surgical rooms into private rooms and "we'll be an all-private-room hospital," Dexter said. "It will take us up to our 260-bed licensed capacity.
"This will allow us to take care of more patients and take care of all of them in private rooms, except our skilled-nursing unit, which falls under our nursing home and behavioral health license."
Thomas Memorial now has 225 beds but only 22 private rooms.
Dexter said construction will cost about $55 million. The equipment and furniture, plus the cost of moving some things into the new building to free space elsewhere, will cost about $15 million.
Thomas Memorial will finance the addition with a bond issue. "It's a good time to be selling bonds because the interest rate is so low," Dexter said. "We have no debt on Thomas. The last time we had debt was to build the 1980 addition, which we built on Division Street. We paid that off last year."
"We've been working on the financing for probably a year now," he said. "We hope to take our bonds to market in April."
Dexter highlighted the expansion plan Friday in his presentation at the South Charleston Chamber of Commerce's 16th annual Groundhog Breakfast and Economic Forecast at the Ramada Plaza Hotel.
He said that during his presentation he pointed out that studies show that by doing nothing else but going from a semi-private to a private room, there are fewer hospital-acquired infections, fewer medication errors and fewer falls.
If you are in a semi-private room and your roommate has an airborne disease, there is some possibility of becoming infected. "With a private room, you are not sharing the air, not sharing the restroom," he said.
Also, "you can't mix up medications as easily because there's only one patient in the room."
"The new rooms are designed to be very accommodating to family - they're designed for a family member to stay overnight," Dexter said. "They have a fold-out couch.
"A lot of our patients are elderly. If they get up in the night to go to the restroom, they can become confused and fall on the way to the bathroom. But if a family member is there, they can talk the patient into staying in bed. So just by having private rooms, there's a huge improvement in the quality of care."
The state Health Care Authority, which regulates hospitals, approved the expansion last March.
February 6th, 2008, 02:50 AM
Piers go up on new I-64 bridge (http://dailymail.com/News/200802040128)
By Jake Stump, Daily Mail, February 4, 2008
Without any delays or roadblocks, construction of the long-awaited Interstate 64 bridge in South Charleston is inching along to its estimated completion two years from now.
One of the piers on the South Charleston side is nearly complete, said Division of Highways spokesman Brent Walker. Others are under construction.
The new span may begin taking shape in late February when form travelers are expected to arrive. Builders use these form travelers, massive platforms, to shape the concrete as the bridge is built from the piers. The form travelers hold wet concrete until it hardens into proper shape.
"We want to make motorists aware of these things, they're monstrous," Walker said. "They look like something out of a science fiction movie. When traveling across the existing bridge, you will see this contraption resting from high above."
Walker said a primary purpose of the form traveler is to build out the deck. He doesn't expect any traffic delays to take place because of these plans. Better yet, no construction traffic delays are expected at all until the new bridge is connected to the existing I-64 roadbed.
Construction of the $83 million bridge began last summer.
Brayman Construction Corp. of Saxonburg, Pa. won a bid last year for $82.86 million to build the four-lane concrete bridge that will accommodate eastbound traffic heading toward Charleston from Roxalana Road to McCorkle Avenue.
The existing two-way, four-lane bridge will be converted to solely accommodate westbound traffic on I-64.
The new bridge will cross the Kanawha River and have eight spans. It will measure 2,975 feet in length, which includes the 760-foot main span over the river.
Walker had stated that the structure would be unlike some bridges in that it won't have a support beam under its center. Piers on each end of the structure instead will support the new bridge.
The project had been discussed as early as 2000, but issues such as funding and design stalled construction.
Once it's completed, highways officials say the bridge will contain the longest continuous segmental span in the United States, and possibly North America.
The new bridge will carry three lanes of through traffic, with a fourth lane for traffic exiting at South Charleston.
According to its Web site, Brayman Construction provides services all over the East Coast for the Army Corps of Engineers, power generation companies, railroads and state departments of transportation. Brayman employs more than 300 workers.
February 12th, 2008, 01:42 AM
Architects to host riverfront plan meetings (http://wvgazette.com/News/200802100464)
Folks interested in improving Charleston have long eyed the area along the Kanawha near the Elk River as prime for redevelopment.
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, February 13, 2008
Folks interested in improving Charleston have long eyed the area along the Kanawha near the Elk River as prime for redevelopment.
Designers from Sasaki Associates recognized the district's value in their study of the riverfront two years ago, as have others.
But what do you put there? Hotels? Restaurants. A marina? Shops? Condominiums? How about a park? And what will it cost?
Designers at Silling Associates, a Charleston architectural firm, think they have a way to answer some of these questions ... or at least approach the problem. It's call BIM - Building Information Models.
"BIM is CAD - computer aided design - on steroids," said Mike Moore, marketing director at Silling. "It's the next generation of CAD. It changes building processes."
BIM is not a single piece of software, but a whole collection of tools that can be used by architects, builders and planners. Moore and Ed Weber, a Silling architect, are trying to introduce BIM to the West Virginia construction community.
"We see something new on the horizon that will affect not just architects and engineers, but everyone," Weber said. "It's taking pieces of data and linking them together - a new tool set, very powerful yet very simple."
One of the problems is that it's hard to explain exactly what BIM is. So Moore and Weber decided to take on a local project as a demonstration. Their choice: The 10-block riverfront district that runs from Elk River to Court Street, and from Quarrier Street to the Kanawha.
"We saw that riverfront plan from Sasaki Associates a couple of years ago," Weber said. "We could take ideas coming from planners, from council members, from engineers, and tie those ideas together in a way that becomes more efficient."
They invited a reporter to their office last week to show a few ways BIM can be used. Working from another site that day, architect and BIM guru Finith Jernigan started with Google Earth images of downtown Charleston. He plopped down some new buildings on the riverfront district.
Because of time limitations, Jernigan used a building model or "template" he'd used previously, for fire stations. Several hours later, he had a perspective drawing of the area with a bunch of new buildings - all fire stations. He sent the computer images to the Silling office, where they were projected on the wall.
"What you see are the spaces mapped out for seven fire stations," Jernigan said in a conference call. He clicked on one of the stations and detailed data - square footage, cost, etc. - popped up.
"These are tagged with building information into a database. This started as a 7,000-square-foot fire station. If I added floors, it would recompute the square-foot costs and energy costs."
In a three-hour exercise, Jernigan worked up information on several million square feet of new construction. "So now, can we afford a $22 million project on that site?"
Charlestonians will get their first crack at plopping down hotels, or shopping centers or whatever, on Thursday. Conceptual design sessions will be held at 3:30 p.m. each Thursday for the next three weeks in the third-floor technology conference center at City Hall.
Silling Associates will host hour-long online sessions at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Feb. 19, 26 and 28.
"We're going to learn about BIM and collectively brainstorm about what they'd like to see," Weber said.
People in the construction industry have already been invited, but the sessions are open to the general public. "Everyone who's interested can come," Weber said.
Marc Weintraub, a member of City Council who attended the demonstration last week, sees the opportunity for some radical thought.
"Just for the sake of discussion, there's the Municipal Auditorium," he said, pointing to the site marked in the riverfront district map. "We can explore the possibilities [building something else there], no harm, no foul."
Participants, both here and online, should look beyond the boundaries of the riverfront district, Weber said. "How does this site relate to the [Town Center] Mall, drive traffic to the mall, without taking away from Capitol Street? How does it relate to the state Capitol? It's such an undeveloped site in the middle of Charleston."
After all the meetings, Jernigan and others will synthesize all the ideas into a final plan. "March 19 at the West Virginia Expo [at the Charleston Civic Center] we'll present what everyone designed," Weber said.
If all this sounds too confusing or technical for you, take heart, Jernigan said. "Even technology experts in the building industry don't understand this. They say you can't do this. Excuse me, you just did."
February 18th, 2008, 06:30 AM
City leaders brainstorm riverfront designs (http://wvgazette.com/News/200802140718)
High-tech map imaging program brings citizens, officials to design table
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, February 15, 2008
One person wants to extend the Boulevard walkway up Elk River to the Civic Center. Another thinks the riverfront district would be a great place to build housing. Yet another suggested paddleboats and canoes, for an active lifestyle.
More than a dozen private citizens and city officials gathered at Charleston City Hall Thursday to share ideas for improving a roughly 10-block downtown area near the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha rivers.
Architects from Silling Associates are holding three such meetings, plus another set of Web-based sessions, to demonstrate new software tools they've adopted. They say the tools, called BIM (Building Information Models), will revolutionize the design and construction industry.
Following a lengthy explanation of the technology, Mike Bordenaro asked people what they'd like to see at the riverfront.
"Housing," said Susie Salisbury, a City Council member and vice president of the Charleston Area Alliance. "It's at the top of our radar screen right now, trying to get more housing downtown. And since you asked about business, we need a grocery store."
Within moments, an eight-story housing complex appeared on computer screens throughout the room. Working remotely, BIM expert Finith Jernigan took the ideas he heard and drew them onto a Google Earth map of Charleston.
In an exercise last week, his first exposure to the Charleston riverfront district, Jernigan plopped down templates of fire stations - seven in all. He used fire stations because he had them handy from a previous project.
"Of course you don't want seven fire stations downtown," Bordenaro said. "This week [Jernigan] worked with Silling Associates for about 40 minutes [and another 40 minutes on his own]."
He showed the results: Three-dimensional models of the federal courthouse, the Municipal Auditorium and the Spilman Center, all in their proper sites on the Google Earth map, instead of simple outlines. Designers might use that information to determine the location of the shadow from the courthouse on an adjacent site, Bordenaro said.
Jernigan clicked on the courthouse and brought up a table of data - net and square footage, construction cost and total energy usage. The energy cost was calculated by tapping into General Services Information energy usage data for the building, along with local energy costs, Bordenaro said.
He asked people to think about what they'd like to see at the riverfront and bring those ideas to the next meeting, at 3:30 Thursday at City Hall.
At least one participant may have been disappointed to learn the goal of the meetings. As people introduced themselves early on, Susan Johnson said she helped start the waterfront process about five years ago and was anxious to bring it to fruition.
"This is not about bringing it to fruition," Bordenaro said. "This is about the process, about design."
Silling architect Ed Weber said the idea is to demonstrate BIM planning tools through a specific example - the riverfront improvement plan of Sasaki Associates.
"The technology is great because it opens the process up to a number of different players," Weber said. In the past, a designer would go away for months and return with a complete plan to show people.
Marc Weintraub, a City Council member and one of the hosts, said Silling architects will summarize all the suggestions and present them March 19 during the West Virginia Expo at the Charleston Civic Center.
"It will be no more significant than what my chess board looks like when my 7-year-old son and I get done," Weintraub said. "It's just play. It's not the city's plan."
February 18th, 2008, 06:31 AM
Authority gives approval to McCrory storefront renovations (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200802140194)
Charleston Daily Mail, February 14, 2008
Board members of Charleston's Urban Renewal Authority have signed off on plans for the renovation of the former McCrory department store building at 209 Capitol St.
The building is soon to be home to law firm Bailey & Glasser PLLC, which is planning major changes to the facade.
"We'll be in by Oct. 1," partner Ben Bailey said.
He said he expects to sell the firm's current home, the 12,000-square-foot Scott Drug Store building a few doors up on Capitol Street.
"One of the things that flows out of this was the downtown being named an historic district. Without that, this wouldn't have happened," he said.
The project was delayed while Bailey and his builders awaited approval for federal historic preservation tax credits. "This is an example of that program working," Bailey said.
CURA members also on Wednesday approved a $33,250 grant to Daymark Inc. to renovate the New Connections building at 1592 Washington St. E. The nonprofit group hopes to get a similar amount from the city through the Community Development Block Grant program.
Board members also approved plans for a 20-by-40-foot metal building that Charleston Area Medical Center plans to build near its incinerator off Brooks Street and an existing metal building.
Joe Tucker, director of housekeeping and waste management for CAMC, said the hospital recently began mixing on-site a substance used to help control emissions from its medical waste incinerator. The new building will be used to store bags of the material, which is mixed in the other metal building where the raw materials are stored, he said.
CURA also agreed to contact the owners of the former New China Restaurant at 1599 Washington St. E, which has been closed for years. The letter will ask the owners to rehabilitate the property, director Pat Brown said. "Otherwise, it will be subject to eminent domain."
The property was among several designated for such action in the East End Renewal Plan several years ago, Brown said. "We're just trying to make something happen. The only owner I'm aware of is Phillip Chin. He or his family used to operate the restaurant."
February 18th, 2008, 06:32 AM
St. Albans obtains historic theater (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200802150204)
Charleston Daily Mail, February 15, 2008
The historic Alban Theater in St. Albans was scheduled to change hands today.
The St. Albans Regional Development Authority, in partnership with the city of St. Albans, was expected to purchase the theater for $180,000 from the Jehovah Witnesses. St. Albans City Council approved the deal last month.
The city plans to restore the facade to its original appearance and turn the building into a working theater and an arts and conference center. The building, at 65 Old Main Plaza, has served as a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses since 1987.
Dick Callaway, mayor of St. Albans, said today's signing will bring a 19-month effort to acquire the theater to a conclusion.
The closing was to take place at BB&T's St. Albans branch. John Finlayson, president of the St. Albans Regional Development Authority; members of the authority's board of directors; Jay Roncaglione, representing the Jehovah Witnesses; and Callaway were expected to attend.
February 18th, 2008, 06:33 AM
^ Note, I have done a slew of updates today.
City councilman happy with skyway plans (http://dailymail.com/News/200802140203)
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, February 14, 2008
Charleston City Councilman Tom Lane didn't like the original design of a proposed skyway connecting the former Boll Furniture building to a city parking garage over Dickinson Street in downtown Charleston.
He said the design looked too boxy and didn't blend in with the two buildings it was connecting. Lane made his concerns known during a city council Finance Committee meeting in January.
A new design was released and approved by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority during a meeting on Wednesday.
Now Lane, an at-large councilman, said he's ecstatic with the final results.
"I think it looks great," Lane said. "The structure was revised and completely withdrawn. What was presented to CURA is a wonderful design."
The pedestrian walkway is part of a renovation of the 60,000-square-foot building that is to be complete in June.
The building is at 900 Virginia St. E., near the north end of the South Side Bridge.
Boll Furniture had occupied the building since 1974.
The business closed its doors last summer.
Triana Energy founder Henry Harmon purchased the building last year.
The building is being renovated by Doublet Enterprises, a company established by Harmon and other investors. The company is operated by Mike Harmon, Henry's son.
The building will house office space and a new graduate business school for the University of Charleston. The school will be located on the second floor.
The walkway will connect the second floor of the building to the city's Parking Garage No. 1.
Lane said he thought the original design wasn't grand enough for the location.
He said the skyway would be the first thing people see after crossing the bridge. He said he wanted a design that would stand out.
"It was imperative in my mind that we ensure that entrance to the city have an attractive structure," Lane said. "The South Side Bridge is one of the major entrances into Charleston."
The new design features an arch theme that reflects the Boll building's facade.
The skyway will be rounded at the top, and its four windows will have the same arch motif that decorates the building's facade on Virginia Street.
At-large Councilwoman Mary Jean Davis is also a fan of the final design.
But Davis also liked the previous design. She and Lane butted heads over the matter during the January council meeting.
Davis said the final design was not altered because of Lane's concerns.
"The designers have been listening for months," Davis said. "There were four public meetings last year where they received input from individuals. They went public with this very early so they could get a reaction."
Mayor Danny Jones said the renovated building and the skyway would be great additions to the city's landscape.
Jones said he loves the new design and complimented Henry Harmon for renovating the building.
"It's great and just another part of the Henry Harmon family and their ongoing contributions to Charleston," Jones said. "We're grateful for all of his contributions. He's a non-stop giver."
February 26th, 2008, 04:17 AM
Kanawha Mall to get new name, new look (http://dailymail.com/Business/200802250141)
By George Hohmann, Daily Mail, February 25, 2008
Although the demolition and construction work necessary to revitalize the Kanawha Mall is expected to take much of this year, the shopping center will remain open throughout.
And when the overhaul is done, "The Shops at Kanawha" will have a whole new look to go with its new name.
Donald Simpson, president of Simpson Properties Inc. of Johnstown, Pa., said the reconfiguration of the shopping center from an enclosed mall to an open-air center is being done in three phases. "We will basically move from West to East on the redevelopment," he said.
"Phase One starts at the Elder-Beerman end of the shopping center. There will be some overlap between phases so as we finish Phase One, we will have already begun work on Phase Two. One of our primary goals is to keep the shopping center open throughout the renovation.
"To accomplish this, some tenants will vacate their stores and return," Simpson said. "Other tenants will relocate into the area at the Gabriel Brothers end of the center. By the time phases one and two are complete, we expect most of the stores to be in their new locations. Obviously, anyone presently in the Phase Three area who will reopen in that area of the redeveloped center will need to be temporarily located while that portion of the work is performed."
A group of investors headed by Simpson bought the Kanawha Mall last July for $11 million. Simpson has said he expects the group to spend more on the redevelopment than it invested in the purchase.
Phase One, estimated to cost $558,500, was approved in late January by the city of Charleston's planning, zoning, traffic engineering, engineering and building departments.
"The first phase involves mostly demolition and infrastructure work," said Tony Harmon, the city's building plans examiner. The first phase is scheduled for completion in April.
Simpson has said he wants the entire project done by Christmas.
Shoppers may notice that some temporary fencing has been erected in the parking lot between the Elder-Beerman store and the Center Court entrance. Simpson said, "Before putting in a foundation, certain testing must be performed to help determine the best way to provide a foundation for buildings.
"We continue to move forward," he said. "Engineering for Phase One is fairly complete."
Meanwhile, Simpson said developers thought long and hard about a new name for the reconfigured shopping center before choosing "The Shops at Kanawha."
"We felt it was important to keep the name 'Kanawha' because it's been the 'Kanawha Mall' for so long," he said.
Documents filed with the city show that Simpson Properties has hired Associated Architects Inc. of Charleston as project architect. Simpson said CTC/EVC of Johnstown, Pa., has been hired as construction manager and BBL Carlton of Charleston is the prime subcontractor.
Subcontractors include: Rock Branch Mechanical Inc. of Poca, heating, ventilation and air conditioning; Elco Mechanical Contractors of Charleston, plumbing; South Charleston Electric Co. of South Charleston, electric; Tri-State Roofing Co., Charleston, roofing; and Cornerstone Interiors Inc. of Red House, metal studs and interior finishes.
The mall is being reconfigured so parking will be close to each individual store and each retailer will have a storefront facing the parking lot.
Simpson has said the redevelopment plans "contemplate an office component" in the shopping center, but he has declined to name the entity or entities that would occupy the space. Separately, state Department of Administration spokeswoman Diane Holley has said the Division of Motor Vehicles may move to the mall.
Elder-Beerman, Gabriel Brothers and Kroger are the Kanawha Mall's anchor stores.
March 5th, 2008, 11:35 PM
Mayor now eyeing Municipal Auditorium lot for convention center development (http://dailymail.com/News/200803040158)
By Matthew Thompson, Daily Mail, March 4, 2008
With the availability of the Beni Kedem Shrine Temple slowly getting out of reach, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones is looking at another location for a new city convention center.
Jones said he wants to develop a center around the Municipal Auditorium, which is city owned property.
He said the idea would include building the center next to the auditorium in land occupied by parking spaces.
"It's a pretty nice sized parking lot," Jones said. "I think we can build a convention center around there and configure it within the specs that our consultants could agree with."
The Municipal Auditorium is located at the corner of Virginia and Truslow Streets across from the Charleston Town Center Mall.
Jones estimated the project would cost $20 million. He said the city would have to look at outside funding sources to get the project off the ground.
"It's conjecture, but we need something around that amount," Jones said. "This is going to take outside money because the City of Charleston does not have this money."
Jones said the funding could come from Washington D.C in the form of federal appropriations.
The city had hoped to acquire the Beni Kedem temple, which would allow the new convention center to be near the Shrine's next-door neighbors, the Charleston Civic Center.
The city had offered to pay $6.5 million to buy the property. Beni Kedem's land includes the temple at 100 Quarrier St. and the Fifth Quarter restaurant next door at 201 Clendenin St.
But Beni Kedem has not been open to discussions with the city, Jones said.
"They have no interest in good faith negotiations," Jones said. "They have two appraisals that are both less than $5 million. They won't show them to the public, but I know they exist and I challenge them to show them to the public."
The city has wanted to expand the Civic Center to make it a bigger player in attracting high-profile conventions and events. Jones has said the added events would generate more customers for downtown businesses and more revenue for the city.
He has said that redevelopment of the Beni Kedem site was essential for the Civic Center to thrive.
The last big renovation for the Civic Center occurred in 1998. About a $9 million was spent in which the 36,000-square-foot Grand Hall got a new ceiling, paint and lighting. The facility's ice rink was also removed to add space to the exhibit hall.
Last summer, the city hired Conventions, Sports & Leisure International and the DLR Group to do perform a feasibility study on the complex.
The final results of the study will be released sometime this year.
Jones said City Councilmen Bobby Reishman and Harry Deitzler pitched him the Municipal Auditorium idea.
Deitzler, an at-large councilman, said the site would be perfect because of its location to tourist attractions in the city including the Boulevard and the Town Center Mall.
"It's closer to areas we are trying to develop like the Boulevard and areas where you have events like Regatta and car shows," Deitzler said. "Also, if people stay at the Marriott or the Embassy Suites, they could go through the mall to get there."
Deitzler added that the idea makes perfect sense because the city already owns the property.
"Why would we want to spend millions to buy a piece of property when we already own a piece of property?" Deitzler said.
Jones said the Municipal Auditorium idea is in the very early stages. He said the city plans to discuss the idea with building consultants to see if the site is feasible.
"We'll have our consultants look in to it and come up with some bucks along the way," Jones said. "This project is still a while away."
April 1st, 2008, 05:37 AM
Hardings say downtown hotel deal is off (http://dailymail.com/News/200803310427)
Developers say health department took too long to move
By Matthew Thompson, Daily Mail, March 31, 2008
Plans for a new hotel where the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is located are no more.
Angela and Kelsey Harding, the planned developers for the hotel, have announced they are no longer interested in developing on the site at 108 Lee Street.
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones made the announcement at a news conference at City Hall today.
In a letter written to Carper and Jones, the Hardings said they decided against the hotel because the health department has taken too much time to select a new location.
Last October, health department officials said they were open to moving from their current location to allow city and county officials to develop a new hotel.
Since then, the city and health department have been at odds over how long it has taken for the department to find a new location.
In the letter to Carper and Jones, the Hardings said the long wait hurt the plans to build the hotel.
"We explained to you when we first approached you about this project that timing was crucial. You understood this and agreed," the Hardings wrote.
"We were willing to pay a premium for the property in order to expedite this project. However we just cannot make a commitment for something of this magnitude for an indefinite period of time."
The Hardings had planned to spend $3 million for the property.
At the press conference, Jones said he was disappointed the deal didn't work out.
City and county officials have said the 108 Lee Street is ripe for development because of its proximity to the Charleston Civic Center, the Charleston Town Center and the Marriott.
Officials have said the new hotel could have brought bring in $300,000 a year in tax revenue for the area.
"The stars have to align for a deal like this," Jones said. "It's obvious now that the stars didn't line up."
Earlier this month, the city offered space for the health department on the third floor of the Appalachian Power Park building at 601 Morris St.
But the health department's board members questioned the property's available parking and floor space
Carper said the $3 million from the Hardings was the best deal the county would have received.
He said there have been no other potential buyers for the property.
"There's no point in selling a building if you have no one left to buy it," Carper said.
Earlier this month, the City Council cut the yearly funding for the health department to help spur the agency to move its headquarters. The decision was made at Jones' suggestion.
The city usually gives $200,000 each year to fund the department. For the next fiscal year, starting in July, the city will give $100,000.
Jones said it would be up to Council to see if the money will be put back.
"We can revisit that," Jones said.
In the letter, the Hardings thanked Jones and Carper for their support.
"We appreciate your efforts to try and improve the city, create jobs and increase tax revenue for Charleston and Kanawha County," the Hardings wrote. "It's unfortunate that other public officials do not have this vision."
April 1st, 2008, 05:50 AM
^^You don't live in Charleston, WV. :weird: Why are you posting news regarding this city? :dunno:
April 1st, 2008, 06:27 AM
Why do you troll every thread at SSP?
April 1st, 2008, 06:04 PM
Why do you troll every thread at SSP?
I don't do it on SSP. Only SSC. :D :hug: April Fools.
April 2nd, 2008, 03:15 AM
Depot gets a much-needed cleanup (http://wvgazette.com/News/200803280690)
City, GKVF, Haddads chip in
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, March 29, 2008
Amtrak riders used to get a pretty poor impression of Charleston when they arrived in West Virginia's capital city. While many stations along the line are kept neat and clean, the old C&O depot under the South Side Bridge suffered by comparison.
Not any more. City employees, who teamed up with volunteers on the Riverfront South subcommittee of the Charleston Land Trust, just finished a makeover that, most would agree, was long overdue.
"We have a gateway into the city, an important gateway and railway face to the world ... this was an important issue to address," said Riverfront South Chairman Troy Stallard.
"Tom Lane [City Council president and head of the Land Trust] and others on City Council felt this entire area needed to be upgraded. We went to the Sustainable Kanawha Valley Initiative group to get some seed money to do this beautification." The group, an offshoot of the Greater Kanawha Valley Fund, provided $10,000.
"We went to the city, who responded with $10,000, plus $10,000 of in-kind labor. We went to the owners of the property, Larry Haddad and his sister. They also agreed and put $10,000 into the project."
Stallard might make it sound simple but this project - in the works since the summer of 2006 - was anything but easy.
There were questions about how to install public facilities - new benches and trash receptacles - on private property. There were stipulations on how grant money could be spent. There were questions about who owned certain pieces of property. And then there were negotiations with the railroad company, not known as the most friendly of business partners.
Mayor Danny Jones' administration sent Bill Shanklin and a Public Grounds team. The group had spent much of last year ripping out weeds and planting trees, shrubs and flowers along MacCorkle Avenue - another Riverfront South project.
Stallard enlisted a woman to cut through the red tape. "Kelly Estep was the project manager that did the ordering, worked with Bill, worked with Larry Haddad's sister." John Bullock of Gaddy Engineering, another Land Trust member, donated some design services.
You can see the results if you go there to catch a train, or glance over while you're passing by on MacCorkle.
"We have the benches, we have the trash containers, we cleaned up the area," Stallard told visitors recently.
"We moved the Dumpster off MacCorkle. It was scattering trash. We replaced, repaired and repainted the fencing."
Precisely 389 lineal feet of steel-rail fencing, which stretches longer than a football field up the river, said Shanklin. He measured it so he could calculate how much green paint to buy and how many shrubs to order. City workers landscaped the whole strip between the tracks and MacCorkle east of the depot.
"That is kind of a no-man's land between the railroad and the Department of Highways right-of-way. So we've had questions about who owns what.
"We put in boxwoods, junipers, yews and an assortment of grasses and knockout roses. In the beginning, there was nothing but weeds. You couldn't even see the railing."
Aside from the new benches and bins, the covered platform between the depot and tracks looks a bit cluttered - a baggage cart here, a 55-gallon drum there - but otherwise clean.
"I don't know if you remember the trash, but this looks good," Stallard said. He points up at a maze of electrical wires. A contractor has volunteered to make it more presentable, but hasn't followed through yet.
Nearby, a room-type air-conditioner juts out from a door. The owner is trying to get rid of it, he said. In general, the once-grand building show signs that it has turned its back on the tracks over the years.
Known as the C&O Depot after the old name of the CSX rail line it serves, the passenger terminal gets only modest use these days. Amtrak passenger facilities are closed Thursdays, for example - no trains.
But longtime residents recall when railroad was a prime form of transportation. "It was the passenger terminal for many years," said Henry Battle, president of the Kanawha Valley Historical & Preservation Society.
The Haddad family has owned the depot for more than 20 years, according to newspaper accounts. Fred Haddad bought the property from CSX in 1986 for $200,000. The family leases parts of the station back to rail officials.
The 1986 sale made improvements a bit trickier, Stallard acknowledged. "The underlying problem is this is private property." Just arranging to replace the benches was a headache.
"It was a big issue. It took us a long time to resolve it. There's a legal agreement between the city and the owners."
City workers and volunteers have done about as much as they can, Stallard said. Future improvements are in the hands of the Haddads.
The result is well worth the hassle, Stallard said, as is the broader beautification effort up and down MacCorkle Avenue. Others are taking notice and offering to help out, he said.
"CAMC has contributed $5,000. The University of Charleston has contributed $5,000. Charleston Acoustics has given $2,500 and Kanawha Valley Advertising has given $2,500.
"It truly is improved over what it was before," Stallard said.
April 4th, 2008, 03:03 AM
Yeager addresses construction problems (http://wvgazette.com/News/200804020695)
By Rick Steelhammer, Charleston Gazette, April 3, 2008
Yeager Airport's governing board on Wednesday adopted a series of recommendations by board chairman Ed Hill to ensure that construction work at the Charleston airport is done in compliance with state water pollution laws.
The move followed an announcement last week by the state Division of Environmental Protection that the airport had agreed to a $15,000 settlement for five construction-related water control violations that allowed sediment to enter Coonskin Branch and the Elk River.
Airport Director Rick Atkinson said the citations included in the settlement proposal involved improperly maintained silt fences and check dams. Although Yeager was named in the compliance settlement, the $15,000 will be paid by Cast and Baker Inc. of Canonsburg, Pa., the main contractor on the airport's $26 million runway extension project.
Cast and Baker is also obligated to perform $21,750 in mitigation work to repair runoff damage, including slides and slips on the Elk River Trail at Coonskin Park.
Hill, the airport board's president, was unable to attend Wednesday's meeting, but he sent board members copies of a series of recommendations he drafted to avoid similar problems in the future.
Hill wrote that he was "greatly disturbed" by the airport's "environmental non-compliance in relation to the ongoing construction project." Mitigation alone is not enough, he said.
"We must hold ourselves to a higher standard and perform reclamation of the area that we have disturbed during this project. ...We have not been good and responsible neighbors at times in this process and that is unacceptable," he wrote.
Hill's recommendations included:
# Hiring professional contractors to "develop a reclamation plan that exceeds the requirements established by law."
# Starting reclamation work this spring near the Charleston end of the extended main runway, where construction activity is nearly complete.
# Demanding that airport contractors and engineers immediately address any instance of noncompliance with state-approved erosion-control plans.
# Holding airport contractors and engineers to their full contractual obligations and seeing that they apologize and take responsibility for their failures.
"I understand that sometimes things don't go well, but this contractor just doesn't get it," Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper told airport board members. "Why isn't the contractor here? I think they need to be invited to the next meeting."
Carper asked Atkinson if other compliance issues have been raised since the agreement was reached. The airport director said that the most recent site inspection turned up several runoff-related situations that need to be corrected soon or risk becoming additional citations.
"We need a change in mindset," Carper said. "We in government constantly hold others to high standards, so we ought to do a better job in serving the public interest than we have been."
Atkinson said after the meeting that the board's formalization of contractor oversight procedures should improve environmental problems during construction projects.
"We apologize for our inaction in this matter," he said. "We haven't done as good a job as we should have in making our contractor comply."
Construction on the runway extension project should be complete in August, Atkinson said. Slide correction and trail resurfacing work has begun on the Elk River Trail, and tree planting for a reforestation project designed by West Virginia University should begin within the next two weeks on the runway slopes nearest downtown Charleston.
In other Yeager news:
# Site preparation work has begun next to the passenger terminal on a new, two-story building to house airport rental car operations.
# Today, Northwest Airlines will begin offering jet service on one of its three daily nonstop flights to Detroit.
# At Yeager's general aviation area, a newly formed company, Kanawha Regional Aviation Maintenance, has begun a maintenance operation serving both private and commercial aircraft in the former Avitat hangar.
# Yeager Airport officials do not expect to lose any commercial airline routes to rising fuel costs any time soon, but fares are expected to rise with the price of jet fuel.
# Airport board members took the first step toward eventually closing Yeager's cross-wind runway for re-use as additional general aviation hangar space.
Board members voted to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to de-certify the runway, used almost exclusively by private pilots because of its 4,750-foot length. Once officially de-certified, the runway could not be used by commercial aircraft, but could remain in use by private aircraft until any hangar development begins.
April 4th, 2008, 03:47 AM
Capitol Area Renovations Require Workers to Move (http://www.statejournal.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=36763)
By Beth Gorczyca Ryan, State Journal, April 3, 2008
CHARLESTON -- By this fall, 600 state workers are going to have to go to work in a different location.
The state is getting ready to launch a massive renovation of Building 3 at the Capitol complex. The nearly 60-year-old structure, known for its art-deco inspired architecture and distinctive green roof, has been plagued in recent years with a leaky roof and windows and a decrepit heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system that is being kept alive, not through the miracle of modern medicine, but more likely the miracle of modern mechanics.
Last winter, workers were ordered to stay out of the building for several days after the boiler malfunctioned and could not heat the building. And the building's electrical system is hard-pressed to keep up with modern demands.
In fact, on one floor, the microwave carries a warning asking users to let others know before turning the device on. The reason? If the microwave runs while certain other machines are on, it will short-circuit several offices causing the employees' computers to shut off.
"Building 3 will be renovated," said Lara Ramsburg, a spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin.
But while the building is being renovated, the 600 or so people who work in the Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Natural Resources, Division of Banking, Division of Motor Vehicles and Public Defender Services offices there will have to move elsewhere.
That is a logistical challenge the state is trying to answer to right now.
"The Real Estate Division is currently seeking space for agencies which are located in Building 3. No leases have been signed at this point, but the discussions are getting closer," said Diane Holley, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Administration, which oversees the Real Estate Division.
"It is expected that all agencies will be moved out of the building by September," she added.
Holley said the square-footage needs of the different agencies currently housed within Building 3 are fairly vast. DHHR, for instance, needs between 50,000 and 60,000 square feet of office space. DNR originally requested between 40,000 and 50,000 square feet but has since reduced its needs to between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet. DMV's offices also need between 30,000 and 40,000 square feet.
She said not all of the requests are for straight office space, however.
"There are a few unique requirements, such as outside storage," she said.
Finding that much available office and storage space could be a challenge, especially considering that the state Constitution requires all state agency headquarters to be within the boundaries of the Capitol City.
But Jay Goldman, president of Goldman Associates Inc., a Charleston real estate firm, said there are some large office areas available in Charleston to house those workers.
"City Center East (on MacCorkle Avenue) is still vacant, and the old McJunkin office on Hansford Street has 40,000 square foot of office space," he said. "There may also be some large spaces in old shopping centers. That may not be the ideal place for the long run, but it may work for the short term."
He said one of the biggest factors in where the agencies end up may depend on how much space and what type of space the agency says it needs.
"Does everyone need to have an office, or can they work in cubicles? With smaller workstations you can have greater density. Building 3 is a lot like other old office buildings. There are a lot of inefficiencies of space, a lot of wasted space," he said.
Whether that's how the building will look after renovations is anyone's guess right now.
Holley said the state's General Services Division, which is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the Capitol complex, has contracted with Perfido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff + Goettel to perform the architectural and engineering study and design for the building. Once that's completed, she said, the state will bid out the construction phase.
After the renovation, it is unknown whether the 600 or so current workers will return to the building.
"We're trying to look at what makes sense," Ramsburg said. "If you have to move everyone out, it may be a good time to evaluate if this is the best use of space and if this is the best place for those offices."
She said there has been mention of the state constructing a new building near the current Capitol complex, but she said no decisions have been made. Right now, all attention is focusing on renovating the eight-story Building 3 and determining where the workers' offices will be come autumn.
"It's a priority, but nothing is finalized yet," Ramsburg said.
April 12th, 2008, 07:01 PM
City's roses uprooted (http://wvgazette.com/News/200804090764)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, April 10, 2008
A city landmark disappeared Monday with little fanfare or protest as Public Grounds employees dug up the old rose garden at Davis Park.
The 100 or so rose plants in the green space off Capitol Street may have been living on borrowed time for more than 20 years - ever since the city enlarged and reconfigured Davis Park.
Public Grounds Director Junior Goodwin, who ordered the dismantling of the rose garden at the request of the Municipal Beautification Commission, remembers when the roses were planted in the early 1980s, when he first went to work for the old Beautification Department as a teenager.
"I built this [park]," he said on a recent visit. "I built these mounds. I dug the holes for the trees. There was nothing here."
In actuality, the rose garden dates back to at least 1952, when members of the Charleston Rose Society got permission to build it on the front lawn of the old Charleston YMCA.
Carter Giltinan, Goodwin's boss in the early 1980s, said park namesake Henry Gassaway Davis deeded away the site of the old YMCA and its front lawn about 100 years ago.
"The deal was if [the property] were not to be used for [the YMCA] any longer, the property would revert to the city," he said. "So the city was left with a white elephant, a huge white elephant."
A benefactor intervened: Mary Price Ratrie agreed to buy an adjacent site on Summers Street and give it to the city, and to hire Brooklyn landscape architect Alice Ireys to redesign the entire area.
The Rose Society's old garden, Giltinan recalls, was fairly elaborate.
"They would have regular planting and feeding and spraying days, and many people would come," she said. "But by the time I became beautification director they had dwindled greatly in numbers, and they asked if we could take it in. We said yes, if you can give us advice. So that was the agreement."
Ireys' plans for new walkways required that the roses be moved. She decided to put them in a double row along Capitol Street, behind a hedge of yews.
Though city workers did their best, and had some help through the '90s from the new Mountain State Rose Society, the rose garden suffered, said Tom Vasale, the city's horticultural consultant and Giltinan's successor as beautification director.
"These are hybrid tea roses," Vasale said. Those roses are among the most fussy, but reward their growers with huge, show-quality blooms.
"You need full sun, excellent air circulation, they're heavy feeders," he said. "The site where they're located has become more and more shaded every year, and the hedge has cut down on air circulation."
Volunteers did much of the work, but as they aged or lost interest, it fell on the city to take care of the roses.
About six years ago, the volunteer help pretty much dried up, Goodwin said. "For two or three years, nobody did anything to them," he said. "We just mulched them. We never sprayed them. They looked awful. They were in terrible shape, freezing."
Beautification commissioners tried, without success, to find someone to take over the chore of keeping up the garden. They asked the Charleston Rose Society, former president John Fleek said.
"I went down about a year ago with [Public Grounds Assistant Director] Bill Shanklin to give an assessment. Then I went to a beautification meeting. We weren't too positive. It's not a good location."
The Mountain State group disbanded about four years ago, Fleek said. "We were willing to help out some.... They wanted us to take it over, but we're a nonprofit and not able to do it." So beautification members agreed to pull the plug.
Now the city is giving the rose plants away. But don't do it unless you're prepared to work, Vasale said.
"They need to provide a proper environment and do soil preparation," he said. "You want to mix enough organic matter in the soil - a deep loamy soil into which the roots can expand.
"If you just dig a hole, throw a plant into it and hope for the best, you'll be disappointed. I would dig at least a 4- by 4-foot square, at least 18 to 24 inches deep, and make sure water can drain out of that hole."
Still interested? "They can live a long time and if they're put in a place where they can prosper, they'll reward the gardener for it," Vasale said.
This might not be the first rose giveaway, Giltinan said. "As I recall, when we built Davis Park, we did our best to protect the roses. Some rosarians rescued some of the plants."
At the same time, Rose Society members replaced some of the original roses, she said. "We put out the word: Anyone who wanted a rose could come down and pick one up."
The rose garden started going downhill shortly after it was replanted, Giltinan said. "I hate that that happened, but I could see it coming.
"I do know roses. Even though they're fussy and finicky, they're sturdy plants. You can just whack them back to a manageable size and next year you'll have a nice plant."
April 12th, 2008, 07:02 PM
Capitol's Building 3 to get overhaul (http://wvgazette.com/News/200804090718)
By Tom Searls, Charleston Gazette, April 10, 2008
If everything goes as planned, state workers in the Capitol Complex's historic Building 3 will have a modernized workplace by June 2010, members of the Capitol Building Commission were told Wednesday.
The original architect of Building 3, better known as the Division of Motor Vehicles building, was Cass Gilbert Jr., son of the famed architect who designed the state Capitol and the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
Alan Weiskopf, lead architect for Perifido, Weiskopf, Wagstaff & Goettel, the firm doing the project, gave commission members an "informal presentation" as to how the structure will be brought "into the 21st century as a state-of-the-art workplace."
The art deco-style "wedding cake" building was built in 1952 and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. After the renovation, it will look much the same on the outside, Weiskopf said. The Virginia green limestone will be cleaned, window glass replaced and all the green tiles on the roof taken off and replaced.
"[The roof] has been Band-Aided together," Weiskopf said.
The building's old brass doors have been discovered in its attic and will be brought back to grace the side of the building that faces the Capitol. The back, or north, side of the building will still be used as a loading dock, the architect said, but another structure that will not touch the main building will be put there for that purpose.
Weiskopf said plans call for that building to connect with the main building's basement by tunnel.
Inside will be another matter.
"It will be a gut job mechanically," Weiskopf said.
All heating and cooling systems will be replaced, along with the wiring. Instead of the long counter with DMV workers behind them, people will find a first-floor set up for conferences and as a business center, Weiskopf said.
Offices, however, will not be glamorous, but cubicle-style places.
Weiskopf is anxious to find out what state divisions will be placed in the renovated structure. State officials are still anxious about where to place the workers while it is being completed.
Commissioners also heard a preliminary report about Holly Grove, the brick mansion built in 1815 by Charleston resident Daniel Ruffner that sits next to the Governor's Mansion.
While many people have written that the old house was ravaged by a fire in the 1830s, architect Robert Cole with the firm Swanke Hayden Connell Ltd., a firm that specializes in restoring old structures, is not certain that happened.
"We haven't seen any evidence of that," he said.
David Oliverio, state General Services commissioner, said state officials want to "button up the building" soon. With some leaks in the roof, state workers want the structure sealed before additional damage can occur.
The last major renovation of Holly Grove was 1902, when the third floor was added, porches completed and a room added to the rear.
"This building is really important to us," Arts and Culture Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith said. Still, state officials are not certain what they will use the mansion for.
Commissioners also approved a new roof for the updated Governor's Mansion kitchen, placement of ADA-approved handrails in the Capitol and the renovation of the governor's press conference room.
April 13th, 2008, 08:01 AM
Big Boy takes stand on West Side (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200804110243)
Hospice office to be built on West Side next to statue of Shoney's icon
By Charlotte Ferrell Smith, Daily Mail, April 11, 2008
A new building project is serving up a big bite of local cultural history.
HospiceCare is going to build an 18,000-square-foot administrative building on two acres of land at 1606 Kanawha Blvd. W. near Patrick St. There will be a groundbreaking ceremony at noon next Thursday.
The area is the old stomping grounds of the original Shoney's where curb girls once delivered trays loaded with Big Boy sandwiches, onion rings, sodas, and hot fudge cake.
HospiceCare purchased the land for $1.2 million last December. However, the Schoenbaum family, which founded the Shoney's restaurants, kept a small portion to hold a Big Boy statue as a reminder of days gone by.
"That was the location of the first restaurant we had, called the Parkette, in 1947," said Betty Schoenbaum, philanthropist and widow of Shoney's founder Alex Schoenbaum. "The name was changed to Shoney's in 1951."
About 10,000 potential restaurant names were entered in a contest that year with the winner driving away in a new Lincoln Continental. The winner had actually suggested Schoeny's but the Schoenbaums felt that spelling came with a high-risk of mispronunciation.
Schoenbaum said erecting the Big Boy statue on the site was the idea of her youngest daughter, Emily. A miniature replica of the restaurant is also to be placed there along with historical photographs. An official dedication will be in June.
Meanwhile, Betty Schoenbaum is happy with the architectural renderings she has seen of the HospiceCare building.
"That new Hospice building is absolutely gorgeous," she said. "It is a big plus for the West Side of Charleston."
HospiceCare is grateful to have its own home after 20 years of renting space in Dunbar, said Larry Robertson, executive director.
"We've enjoyed our tenure in Dunbar but we've outgrown the building," Robertson said. "Our program has grown by leaps and bounds. We need more space."
Total cost of the project will be $4.5 million. General contractor is Pray Construction Co. Architect is John Harris of Bastian & Harris.
"We hope to move in by late September or early October," Robertson said.
Hospice began in the area in 1979 with seven patients, 15 volunteers and a $500 budget.
The nonprofit organization now has 250 employees, 350 volunteers and a $17 million budget. About 330 patients and families are served each day.
"With an aging population, the Hospice movement has taken off across the country," Robertson said. "Ten years ago there were 2,000 active organizations in the United States. Now there are almost 6,000."
HospiceCare provides comfort and assistance to patients and families dealing with a terminal or life-threatening illness. The organization is mostly funded through Medicare and Medicaid with the remainder coming from fundraisers and contributions.
The groundbreaking ceremony at noon on Thursday will also help launch a capital campaign to assist with funding of the new facility.
"We're obviously very excited about moving to Charleston and hope the visibility will continue to expand our programs to more people and make services available to families in time of need," Robertson said.
For more information call 768-8523.
April 13th, 2008, 08:02 AM
YWCA hires a very heavy lifter (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200804100290)
Bulldozer working inside downtown facility to remove old pool
By Matthew Thompson, Daily Mail, April 10, 2008
It's not every day you find a bulldozer at work inside a building.
But it's also not routine for an 88-year-old facility to get a new half-million dollar indoor swimming pool.
Construction is under way on the $487,509 project at the YWCA of Charleston on Quarrier Street.
The project began two weeks ago and is expected to be completed before July.
YWCA Marketing Director P.K. Khoury said the organization is excited about the changes.
"It's good news for everybody," Khoury said. "We told the community we would do this, and now we're doing it. We believe it will have a very positive outcome."
Khoury said the pool will be a little bigger than the original 20-by-60-foot pool. A new hot tub will seat up to 10 people. The old one could accommodate only five.
Jarrett Construction Services is overseeing the work.
Project Manager Courtney Persinger said workers are taking out the old pool.
"It's over 80 years old and built very well," Persinger said. "It's also difficult to take out."
That's where the bulldozer comes in.
Persinger said it wasn't easy to get the needed heavy equipment into the building.
"The door wasn't big enough," Persinger said. "We had to disassemble the machines and put them back together once we got inside."
The new facilities will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The pool will contain wheelchair-accessible ramps.
The locker rooms will have ADA-compliant toilets, showers and sinks.
Other changes include new granite vanity tops and individual shower stalls in the men's locker room.
The women's locker room will include new make-up vanities and granite counter tops. Individual shower stalls with adjacent private changing rooms will be installed in the women's locker room.
"You will be able to walk through a curtain and have a little bench where you can put your shoes and hang your clothes up," Khoury said. "Then you'll go through another door and enter the shower stall."
New light fixtures and acoustical ceilings will be installed in both locker rooms.
Money for the project came from the Y's Raise the Roof fundraising campaign last year.
The campaign raised $1 million in donations and grants from individuals, businesses and local governments.
The building has a new roof and a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning system for the second and third floors.
Khoury said the Y had spent $350,000 before the pool project began.
She said future projects include new plaster and painting work inside the facility.
That work will be completed once the organization finishes the massive pool construction project, Khoury said.
She said members would be pleased with the results.
"We made a commitment to save the building and save the pool," Khoury said. "Thanks to everybody's help, we are doing it."
April 13th, 2008, 08:30 AM
edit: regret what I said. :)
April 25th, 2008, 06:23 AM
User fees to be spent to stabilize Boulevard (http://dailymail.com/News/200804240207)
About $1 million for the project will come from Corps of Engineers
By Matthew Thompson, Daily Mail, April 24, 2008
Charleston is spending user fee money to ensure part of Kanawha Boulevard doesn't fall into the Kanawha River.
The city plans to spend $612,500 for a riverfront stabilization project along the Boulevard between Patrick Street and Magic Island. The money is meant to match a $1 million federal grant.
The City Council allocated the money for the project on Monday.
City Manager David Molgaard said the city is pleased the project will become reality. He said stabilizing the riverbank is important.
"The bank is holding up the roadway," Molgaard said. "We don't want it to deteriorate to the point where we lose the road."
Molgaard said river water is currently coming up and flowing under the road. The water is eroding rocks and sand and undercutting the road, he said.
Molgaard said the new project would include installing new geo-textile fabric from the lower sidewalk to the river's surface.
The existing riprap, which is rock used to armor shorelines and streambeds against water erosion, will also be replaced.
Molgaard said the overall project would cost about $1.7 million.
About $1 million has been allocated for project from a grant through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Molgaard said the federal money could eventually extend beyond the $1 million.
The grant has a 65/35 match, so Charleston needed to put up the money from the user fee.
The user fee is paid by anyone who works in the city. The money goes to pay for additional police officers and street projects. It was started in 2004 with $1 a week being subtracted from people's paychecks. The figure jumped to $2 after the City Council approved the increase last fall.
The riverfront stabilization project came out of a plan to renovate the waterfront area.
In 2005, Massachusetts-based consultants Sasaki Associates, Inc. were hired to develop a master plan for the waterfront area between the 35th Street and Patrick Street bridges.
Other additions to the waterfront were also pitched. The city hopes eventually to complete related projects, Molgaard said.
"Under the riverfront master plan, there were other things suggested by Sasaki that we can and should do," Molgaard said. "Fishing docks, handicapped access, and river overlooks at certain areas. But those kind of things could not be paid for by user fee money."
The city got help earlier this year when Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., nabbed $2.4 million in federal appropriations to help place a roof over Haddad Riverfront Park.
It's tentatively scheduled to be complete in 2009.
Molgaard said the city hopes to receive future federal funding to stabilize the entire Kanawha Boulevard beyond Magic Island.
"We've been advised that the whole stretch of Boulevard needs to be addressed," Molgaard said. "This is the worst portion and it's an immediate concern."
Molgaard said the project has been divided into three phases. He said it would cost $6 million to complete the entire project.
Molgaard said it's still undetermined when the actual construction on phase one will take place.
He said contracts have to be signed with the Army Corps before their fiscal year ends in October. Bids from contractors then will be sought.
Molgaard said he doesn't believe traffic will be greatly affected along the Boulevard during construction.
"I think most of this repair will take place from the river," Molgaard said. "We're only talking from the lower sidewalk down to the river's edge."
April 26th, 2008, 06:46 AM
AEP, Kanawha sign building agreement (http://wvgazette.com/News/200804240784)
The donation of the old American Electric Power building on Virginia Street to Kanawha County is nearly complete.
By Sarah K. Winn, Charleston Gazette, April 25, 2008
The donation of the old American Electric Power building on Virginia Street to Kanawha County is nearly complete.
At Thursday's County Commission meeting, Kanawha County officials signed an agreement to officially accept the donation.
"This is such a windfall for us," Commissioner Hoppy Shores said. "Santa Claus came early."
AEP and Kanawha County officials began moving forward with the building donation in 2007, although commission president Kent Carper had been working to get the building for about five years.
The three-story, 21,000-square-foot-office building has been vacant since 2002. The building comes with a parking garage that also contains office space. Carper said the building is worth around $3 million.
The county plans to use the building for offices and storage of paperwork and equipment.
AEP's board of directors approved the donation on Thursday, said Mark Dempsey of AEP.
Now, AEP must seek approval of the donation from the West Virginia Public Service Commission, he said. The agreement signed Thursday by the commission will be submitted as soon as possible.
While the actual donation is about to be complete, moving in may take some time because the building needs some upgrades.
Complete upgrading could take years to finish, but Carper suggested "gutting" all the floors at once to save money.
Carper wants to restore the first floor to its original condition and possibly make space for Kanawha County historical documents.
At Thursday's meeting, local historian Richard Andre presented a large, circa-1930 picture of the AEP building.
"It's a wonderful classic building. They don't build them like that anymore," Andre said.
In other business, the commission decided not pursue a health reimbursement account program managed by Vested Health over concerns that it would discourage employees from seeking health care. However, the commission did discuss creating a medical home network to help with the county's wellness program.
The network will give incentives - such as discounts on prescriptions - to participants and create a network of primary care physicians to provide services to employees.
The providers would be paid by the county and provide employees with care at no cost.
The commission also recognized an Alum Creek man who found an 8-year-old boy lost in Kanawha State Forest last week.
Wesley Anderson of Alum Creek volunteered to help find Brandon Maddy on his ATV, said the county's emergency management director Dale Petry.
"He came up, on his own ... got on his four-wheeler and helped locate the child," Petry said.
Getting Anderson to the meeting on Thursday took some prodding, officials said. When asked to speak at the meeting, he just smiled.
"I don't think I deserve it," he said outside of the meeting. "It does feel good to be recognized. I didn't want to see something happen [to the boy]."
April 29th, 2008, 01:31 AM
Gaining on the goal to go green (http://wvgazette.com/News/200804270418)
City has no coordinated plan, but many efforts
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, April 28, 2008
When city leaders in Chicago, Rome, Athens, Bangkok and Sydney dimmed their lights one night last month to highlight the threat of climate change, the lights in Charleston burned as brightly as ever.
And though at least four West Virginia mayors have joined more than 800 of their peers across the country in pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions during the next five years, Charleston Mayor Danny Jones has not.
It's not that Jones is anti-environment. He says he has other priorities.
"I have no problem with these green initiatives," Jones said. "I wish them well," he said of the mayors of Fayetteville, Morgantown, Oak Hill and Shepherdstown who signed on to the Kyoto Protocols although President Bush has not. And he pointed out environmental efforts within his administration.
"My first priority should be law enforcement: make it safe and clean," Jones said. "My sustainability effort is the effort to fight crime. And I think we've made significant progress there."
Sustainability is a hot topic these days. In city halls, state capitals, corporate boardrooms, lots of folks are jumping on the bandwagon. It's become a "very popular buzzword used around the world today to characterize an approach to some of the biggest problems facing our species," city planning director Dan Vriendt wrote recently.
But what does it mean? Ask 10 people and you'll like get 10 different definitions. In general, it refers to efforts to conserve the world's resources for future generations - such as fighting global warming. But there's more.
Three pillars of sustainability
"Sustainability has three pillars - environmental impact, economic development and social justice/well-being," said Troy Stallard, a Charleston businessman and civic volunteer. "The idea is you need all three for sustainability. If you don't have economic development, you have trouble. If you don't share across races and classes, you're not sustainable."
During recent months, Stallard has been urging city leaders to adopt a formal sustainability program, as many other cities have.
"Sustainability needs effort from top down and bottom up," he said. State, federal and local governments can provide top-down leadership, and money, "for sustainability projects and education for the citizens. No individual is going to solve global climate change.
"At the same time, the citizens have to elect leaders who support sustainability. The citizens have to demand sustainability.
"Two things have to happen. Sometimes they mesh, sometimes they don't."
A member of the Charleston Land Trust and head of its Riverfront South subcommittee, Stallard convinced Land Trust members several months ago to support his sustainability initiative. The next step: City Council.
"The Land Trust is fully behind the city adopting a sustainability plan," said Tom Lane, head of the Land Trust and president of City Council. "The game plan was Troy and I would make a presentation to City Council at an appropriate time. I think the time is now.
"We anticipate that a visceral reaction to it will be that it will cost money and it will call for impractical things to be done. We feel that's an incorrect assessment, that in the long run you can save money, you get better construction and you apply better policy.
"It will be our intent to sit down with the mayor personally and members of the administration and persuade people, that this is good policy, that the city should adopt a sustainability plan and should be a leader."
An inventory of city efforts
Lane and Stallard might get a warmer reception in the mayor's office than they expect. Jones said the city is already taking some "green" initiatives. When he tapped former East End Main Street manager Mary Alice Hodgson as an aide late last year, he asked her to inventory those efforts.
Hodgson said she has been meeting with department heads as she learns her way around City Hall. "Some of them are already doing things, and maybe not putting a label on it," she said.
"For example, the Street Department is putting energy-efficient bulbs in street lamps. They save money and, because they last longer, there's less labor because they don't have to be changed as often.
"The maintenance crews at City Hall are using green cleaning products. The mayor asked them to do that. All the offices are recycling paper. There are bins in City Hall.
"All these little steps lead to giant leaps," Hodgson said. "I think we have to identify what's been done. If there's going to be a plan, this is how you start."
Hodgson might add some more items to her list, based on an informal Gazette survey:
# Leaders of the city's Public Grounds department have gradually shifted away from planting exotic types of trees and shrubs in favor of native varieties.
"A lot of it has to do with compatibility and ease of maintenance," said assistant director Bill Shanklin. Last year, for example, he chose dogwoods, redbuds and hollies for the Riverfront South beautification project along MacCorkle Avenue. Most were grown close to home.
"I don't like to go to Georgia or Tennessee. Preferably in-state or if it can be grown within our locale - 200 miles of here. They've been grown under local conditions and there's less shock. There's less maintenance ... and they're less susceptible to disease."
# Tom Elkins, stormwater manager in the city's Engineering Department, is trying to keep storm runoff from washing pollutants into our rivers as the city tries to comply with state Division of Environmental Protection standards. He's trying to rewrite city codes for development and redevelopment.
"In the future, if someone downtown has a gutter that discharges directly into a storm sewer, we're going to have them change it to a lower-impact method. A rain garden, a retention area, a wet pond - we did that at Appalachian Power Park - or a rain barrel.
"If a new subdivision is going in, we want to make sure they're not causing problems downstream. That's the kind of thing we're looking at.
"The overall goal is to make sure we don't put pollution back in our streams and try to alleviate some of the flooding problems."
# Vriendt, the planning director, says sustainable or "smart growth" principles are likely to be incorporated in the city's comprehensive plan when that plan, more than 10 years old, is rewritten next year. But his staff is already using some of the concepts.
"One example, when doing the East End Renewal Plan we used some sustainable principles. We required buildings along the commercial strip of Washington Street to be built up to the streetfront, to have a large percentage of glass and don't allow long blank walls along the sidewalk.
"You need to keep a pedestrian engaged. There's a whole science to it. When you're out on Corridor G, that's a hostile environment compared with Capitol Street."
# George Farley, an electrician in the city's construction crew, on his own began to install energy-efficient light bulbs, City Manager David Molgaard said. The crew has also been replacing old window air conditioners with more efficient systems as it renovates sections of City Hall.
"Then it was brought to our attention there is an energy audit program and grants available" through the state.
Molgaard, president of the state city managers association, will make a sustainability presentation at the group's meeting Wednesday in Clarksburg.
"We don't have a concentrated plan around sustainability just yet," he said. "It's something that comes up in conversations a lot. We've found we're doing a lot already because it makes sense in terms of cost saving."
# Susie Salisbury, a City Council member and vice president of the Charleston Area Alliance, says sustainability has been one of the goals of the Alliance's community development division since the group was formed four years ago.
"Even without using the word, we've obviously been preaching and practicing this. It goes from our EcoDwell House [a demonstration "green" home in the East End] to our focus on historic preservation and into our walkable communities effort we did last year."
State leaders will focus on the topic during a conference in Charleston May 7, she said. According to the Web site of the West Virginia Environmental Institute, "Sustainable Communities and the New Economy" is the title of the group's annual environmental conference, to be held at the Marriott hotel.
"I think what's becoming clear is a lot of us are doing it," Salisbury said. "We're just not calling it that."
That may not be quite enough, at least in some minds.
"Charleston's doing a lot of things," Stallard said. "A lot of different people are doing different things. The mayor's FestivALL has a lot of sustainable elements - making the city attractive for young people.
"The mayor does a lot in economic development, trying to get more jobs and development. In that sense he's pushing sustainability.
"What I think he's missing is a systematic approach in pushing that into every facet of city planning. I really think there needs to be a mind-set, so you're always thinking of sustainability in virtually every facet of the city."
May 1st, 2008, 04:19 AM
Bridge Road Phase III work starts (http://wvgazette.com/News/200804280637)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, April 29, 2008
In the not so distant past, South Hills merchants complained whenever the city closed the South Side Bridge or Bridge Road for repairs.
That's not the case anymore. In fact, some of the owners of the cluster of shops near the corner of Bridge and Walnut roads have donated to the latest phase of streetscape improvements that began Monday, which were planned by the Bridge Road Neighborhood Association.
"This is Phase III of the streetscape," said Sara Hoblitzell, an association board member. "We started in 2006."
Two years ago, with lots of donated city labor, the group tackled the old retaining wall in front of the Rite Aid. They added parking spaces along the road, improved sight lines for motorists and built a street-level sidewalk.
"Phase II was very small," she said. Last year, the group built a "gateway" at the northern end of the shopping district, near the Bridge Road Bistro. It includes a landscaped bed and a decorative streetlight.
Diagonally across the intersection, near City National Bank, they installed a stone planter, two benches, a trash can and another streetlight, all paid for by a gift from the Kanawha Garden Club.
The lights match those that line the lower end of Bridge Road. "We hope to have them all through the Bridge Road area," Hoblitzell said, and another dozen or more could go in this summer.
Association members have two goals this year: to create a pedestrian plaza along the strip in front of the South Hills Plaza; and to build a second gateway at the southern end of the district.
City workers will start the plaza by tearing out several parking spaces on the plaza side of Bridge Road. "The split-rail fence, crumbling stairs and sidewalk that leads to Rite Aid - they'll all be taken out," she said.
After carving into the hillside, workers will add some angled parking spaces, build a street-level sidewalk and install streetlamps and benches. A $10,000 grant from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation will buy materials for a retaining wall.
A visual highlight will be the new fence - a decorative hand-forged iron fence that Matt and Tessie Wallace of Wallace Metalworks are crafting in their Tyler Mountain studio.
The fence will honor Sherry Lovett, Betty Sturm and Ellie Schaul, who ran The Art Store for 35 years until they sold it a few months ago, Hoblitzell said. At the Rite Aid end of the fence, an iron tree sculpture will extend down to ground level. Its upper branches will weave into the design of the fence.
The south gateway, meanwhile, will be built at the corner of Glen and Bridge roads, across from Lola's pizza. It includes a stone patio, plantings, a welcome sign and more streetlights. "We received a grant from the Briar Hills Garden Club - $10,000."
The total cost of the project and its timeline were not immediately available, Hoblitzell said. Mayoral aide Rod Blackstone said the city's work might be done in June.
"There's probably 200 individuals who have given money," Hoblitzell said. "There are 14 streetlamps and every one of them has been donated. They cost $1,700 each."
The iron fence alone costs more than $20,000 and while a number of people have donated toward it, more money is needed, she said.
"We're appreciative of the community. This is a community effort, and from the first phases we've done, all the shops up there are full. They're all small, individually owned businesses. At one time we counted more than 200 people employed."
May 2nd, 2008, 05:42 AM
Long-closed junior high poses hazard (http://dailymail.com/News/200805010243?page=2&build=cache)
Carper wants school demolished, but officials say it is too expensive
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, May 1, 2008
Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper wants county school officials to demolish the old DuPont Junior High School near Belle.
Carper said the school, which was closed in 1999, presents a danger to the community. He's received numerous complaints from citizens about the building's dilapidated status
The property is located in a residential neighborhood in Belle.
"It's an eyesore, it's a rat trap and people are concerned it will catch on fire," Carper said. "Would you want something like that next to you?"
Earlier this week, Carper wrote a memo to Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring expressing his eagerness to see the property knocked down.
In the memo, Carper said the property is an "attractive fire hazard" and an "attractive nuisance for children."
He said people have been entering the property and vandalizing the building's interior. Windows in the facility have been broken out.
"It's not even debatable," Carper said. "The building should have been torn down years ago."
The school shut down when DuPont and East Bank High Schools consolidated into Riverside High School.
That freed up the DuPont High School building, which became the home for the new DuPont Middle School.
Chuck Wilson, director of facilities for the school system, said officials would like to tear down the school, but financial constraints are hindering the process.
He said Duerring had discussed the issue before the school system received
"We're looking to take it down," Wilson said. "It's very expensive to do that in our position."
Wilson said the project would cost "several hundred thousands of dollars" to complete.
He said demolishing the property is just one aspect of the process. Wilson said asbestos removal, lead removal, and other environmental issues would be part of the process.
The site also would have to be cleaned up and grass should be planted.
Wilson said the school system has used the site for storage.
He said the items in storage would have to be transplanted to other locations.
"Once we get the money to bid it out and get the permits from the regulatory agencies, then we will start moving out of there," Wilson said.
Wilson said the demolition would have to occur after the new fiscal year begins July 1.
"We need to find money to do it," Wilson said.
DuPont resident Betty Childers has lived next to the school for 50 years.
Childers, an 80-year-old retiree, said she's been keen on seeing the property demolished. She said the school has been an eyesore and hazard since it closed.
"It's very run down," Childers said. "All the windows are broken out and some are boarded up. Some of the children here in Dupont city have gone there and started fires."
Childers lives on Lee Avenue, which lies on the west end of the school's football field.
She would like to see the property devoted to something useful for the community.
"I would like to see it torn down and maybe divided into residential lots," Childers said. "I was told at one time that they planned an elementary school there."
Belle Mayor Larry Conley said the school has deteriorated greatly since it closed down.
The school is located outside Belle limits in an unincorporated area.
Conley has heard from many residents that the building has become a hazard.
"I've heard them complain about vandalism and people breaking windows out," Conley said. "I know there are kids that go in there."
Conley said he's glad Carper has advocated cleaning up the property.
"I'm with Mr. Carper in thinking that it should be torn down," Carper said. "It's a wonderful piece of property with a lot of potential."
Carper said he understands how limited funds affect decisions by government bodies. He said he's confident the school board will find a way to rid the community of the aging building.
"I know the school board is under enormous pressure to maintain and take care of activities," Carper said. "But you can't leave something like this in a community. It's not fair to people that live there."
May 3rd, 2008, 11:50 PM
Any recent construction pics?
May 7th, 2008, 01:55 AM
Highland to add three buildings, 200 jobs (http://wvgazette.com/News/200805060009)
Hospital expansion to cost $38 million, require six years
By Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette, May 6, 2008
During the next six years, Highland Hospital plans to add three new buildings and hire 200 additional full-time workers in Kanawha City as part of a $38 million expansion, the psychiatric facility's chief executive said Monday.
The project would start with the construction of a $15 million four-story replacement hospital in September. The 70,000-square-foot building would front MacCorkle Avenue.
Two years later, the hospital hopes to build an $8 million "central services" building that would house a welcome center, cafeteria, kitchen and gymnasium.
And by 2014, the hospital plans to complete another $15 million three-story patient building.
The expansion project would increase Highland's total number of psychiatric beds from 56 to 170 and provide more services to children and adolescents, hospital officials said.
Highland also would help to ease overcrowding at the state's two psychiatric hospitals in Weston and Huntington.
Highland CEO Dave McWatters III said the existing Kanawha City facility - originally a private hospital built in the 1930s - is too small and outdated.
"We've had serious space issues," McWatters said, "and everything is pretty worn out."
Highland treats adults, children and teenagers with mental illness - mainly depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The hospital also has a handful of beds for people with substance abuse problems.
McWatters said the new facilities, like the existing hospital, would not accept "forensic patients," people convicted of crimes who receive mental health care instead of jail time.
Highland officials met with Kanawha City residents last week to discuss the project.
McWatters said residents are most concerned about Highland workers and visitors parking along neighborhood streets.
The hospital plans to make space for 170 parking spots. Employees would park in a vacant lot across MacCorkle Avenue on the site of a former Chi-Chi's Mexican restaurant.
The hospital doesn't plan to expand beyond its current boundaries in Kanawha City.
An existing outpatient building along MacCorkle Avenue would be torn down this summer to make way for the four-story replacement facility by September 2009. The service building would be finished by 2012. The current hospital would be demolished, and the three-story patient building would go up there in 2014.
The project requires state and local approval. A decision on Highland's application with the state Health Care Authority is expected by July 14.
The hospital has requested a variance from Charleston's Board of Zoning Appeals. Highland's four-story building would be 9 feet taller than what city code allows in Kanawha City.
Highland plans to pay for the project with bonds and cash reserves accumulated after selling off two home-health agencies several years ago. The hospital hasn't requested any state or federal money for construction, McWatters said.
The project also would help alleviate overcrowding in local hospital emergency departments, where psychiatric patients often show up, he said.
The replacement hospital would include a 24-hour assessment center that could handle patients with psychiatric problems and admit them to Highland or refer them for outpatient care.
The expansion project also includes more large rooms for group therapy.
Highland, West Virginia's only freestanding nonprofit psychiatric facility, has hired ZMM architects and RC General Contractors - both Charleston companies - for the project.
May 18th, 2008, 06:15 AM
Thomas Memorial plans $70 million expansion (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200805150084)
Charleston Daily Mail, May 15, 2008
SOUTH CHARLESTON -- Thomas Memorial Hospital is launching a fundraising effort to help pay for a $70 million expansion.
The South Charleston hospital plans to build a six-floor tower that will include private rooms, obstetrics unit, surgical center, cafe and kitchen. The new tower will increase Thomas Memorial's bed count from 225 to 260.
The Thomas Hospital Foundation has scheduled a news conference Thursday to announce a fundraising campaign. The foundation hopes to raise $6 million to help pay for the project. It already has $4.2 million in commitments.
Most of the project's cost will be paid with proceeds from a tax-exempt bond issue.
May 21st, 2008, 03:33 AM
City OKs contract for bridge lighting (http://wvgazette.com/News/200805190632)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, May 20, 2008
Two more city bridges - the Lee Street and Kanawha Boulevard spans over the Elk River - will get decorative lights under a contract City Council members approved Monday.
Council members approved a $441,750 contract with Stealth LTD to install lights on the two bridges, following the plans of Pittsburgh-area lighting designer Hal Hilbish.
John and Ruth McGee have agreed to donate most of the money for the project - $414,460. The McGees previously hired Hilbish to design the $200,000 lighting system they provided for the South Side Bridge.
Mayor Danny Jones called the McGees' gift extremely generous. Bids for the lights actually came in about $100,000 higher than expected, and the McGees agreed to increase their proposed gift if the city would cover part of the extra cost. The city's share of $27,290 comes from the general maintenance budget.
"John and Ruth McGee have very generously stepped up to light these bridges," Councilwoman Mary Jean Davis said. "The one on the Boulevard will have colored lights. We hope the work will start in August." The McGees first announced their plan to light the two bridges in August 2007.
Also Monday, council members agreed to hire Sergio Fisher & Associates to design a new stage lighting system for the Municipal Auditorium. Civic Center Manager John Robertson said the system will replace the auditorium's original stage lights, which date back to 1939.
Designing a new stage lighting system is the first step toward replacing the entire system, Robertson said.
"We're working with a really antiquated piece of equipment and addressing some of the code issues we have," he said. "We're hiring a theater lighting consultant. They'll be teaming up with a local lighting contractor.
The city also will buy new lights and instruments for the auditorium, Robertson said. He expects the equipment to cost about $250,000.
The auditorium will be closed from July to September so the new equipment can be installed. August is usually the slowest month there, Robertson said.
"We hope it will make the Municipal Auditorium more marketable because so many groups that come in have to supplement our existing lighting," he said.
In other business Monday, council members learned that Cleophus Booth, longtime director of the Refuse Department, is retiring. Jones said he has appointed Rick Adams to replace Booth.
May 26th, 2008, 04:01 AM
School officials ponder future of aging West Side schools (http://dailymail.com/News/200805230133)
Glenwood Elementary could be transformed into a bike trail, while Chandler Elementary could be used for fire department training
By Kelly Holleran, Charleston Daily Mail, May 23, 2008
Kanawha County school officials are negotiating with the city of Charleston to trade an elementary property for some city-owned property near Cato Park.
The city land would be used for a second consolidated elementary on the West Side, School Board President Jim Crawford said.
The student bodies of Glenwood and Chandler are to be consolidated in a new school already in the works for the Cabell Field site at Florida Street and Kanawha Boulevard West. The state School Building Authority in April approved $8.5 million in funding for the new school.
Talks with city officials are ongoing, and a majority of the five-member school board would have to approve the deal.
The Chandler property might be used as a site for fire department training, said city manager David Molgaard.
"We're exploring that opportunity," he said.
School officials have also been in talks with the West Side Neighborhood Association and they are thinking about redeveloping Glenwood into a bike trail or other green space, said Chuck Wilson, director of facilities and planning for Kanawha County Schools.
Construction of the new school at the Cabell site could begin by late summer, said Kanawha County Superintendent Ron Duerring. About 323 students currently attend the two schools.
School officials want to build a second new elementary on the West Side hill. It would replace J.E. Robins and Watts elementaries.
A man who owns about seven acres of property behind Watts has expressed interest in purchasing the old elementary school, Wilson said.
All school property must be auctioned unless school officials are dealing with another government entity such as the city, Wilson said.
School board member Bill Raglin thinks the board will have to make a decision on the Glenwood and Chandler properties soon but is not sure of an exact time.
"I'd be reluctant to make any commitment about what we're going to do with those properties until we have reached some agreement with the city on what property we're going to swap," he said.
Most school board members say they support the decision to make a trade with the city.
"I'm just one voting member of the board, but I would favor some kind of a trade-off with the city to get rid of the properties," Crawford said.
"If we have to tear it down, the cost of asbestos abatement, it just takes a lot of money. If we could make a trade and the city would want to do that, that would be fine.
"Whenever you leave a building vacant, it's just an eyesore in the community. We just can't let them sit and not do anything with them."
"I like all that," school board member Becky Jordon said about the proposals.
She said it would be better to trade properties than to let the old school buildings sit vacant and increase the crime rate on the West Side.
"The West Side cannot tolerate having those buildings sitting there," she said.
Incoming school board member Robin Rector said she would like to hear what the community wants done with the school properties but would be open to trading with the city if there is a need.
She also does not want to see the property sit unused.
"I know that certainly there have been problems with holding property vacant," she said.
"Certainly (I would support) selling the property to regain the dollars. I've seen a lot of success with turning these schools into community centers."
School board member Pete Thaw is skeptical.
"We're going to do the same thing to the West Side schools when we abandon them that we have to all the others - let them sit there - and they're valuable pieces of property that should be sold, but they won't be," he said.
"They're just like that beautiful piece of property at Meadowbrook. It's there; it sits."
The overall cost of the new West Side school is projected at $13.4 million. In addition to the $8.5 million the School Building Authority approved in April, $2 million will come from the school's system excess levy, which was renewed by county voters in the recent primary election.
School board members have discussed asking voters also to approve a bond issue to cover the remaining costs. That would most likely be put before voters on a November ballot.
Thaw does not support the idea.
"They'd much rather issue a bond issue than they would sell a piece of property," Thaw said.
"As long as the taxpayers of this county continue to pass bond issues knowing that we're sitting on this property, then, buddy, it's going to continue right on."
Wilson said the old Sissonville Middle School may be partially torn down, Wilson said.
A new middle school for the community opened in December.
The old school's cafeteria will probably be preserved for use by the elementary school, and a non-profit group may be able to move into the gym, he said.
"There's land and a newer section of the building we might sell," Wilson said. "We've talked to some community members about different prospects."
County officials wrote a letter to the school board about DuPont Junior High School near Belle, requesting the building be demolished.
The school was closed in 1999 and poses a threat to the community, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said.
School officials plan to tear down the school after July 1, Crawford said.
They already have obtained estimates of demolition costs but will have to seek bids, Wilson said.
The school system is working on a 10-year plan that would begin in 2010. It likely will include construction of a consolidated elementary school on the DuPont site.
Officials contemplate a school for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders from Belle, Malden and Mary Ingalls Elementary Schools, Wilson said.
June 2nd, 2008, 05:18 AM
Building by numbers (http://wvgazette.com/News/200805300447)
City full of kit homes, author says
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, June 1, 2008
When Secretary of State Betty Ireland bought her South Hills home in 1980, she was captivated by its handsome lines, its sturdy structure and fine details, like the ornate central staircase.
"We've been real pleased with this house," she said. "It's real well built, structurally sound. My husband and I have restored the house. Every year we do something. Whether it's replacing windows, adding a deck or rewiring, we have tried to keep the historic look and feel of the house. But little did I know how historic."
Then she got a call from the president of Kanawha Valley Historical & Preservation Society.
"This was quite a surprise," she said. "Henry Battle called me up one night. He wanted to talk to me about a kit home. I never thought about it before."
Battle and fellow historian Billy Joe Peyton had recently taken kit home authority Rose Thornton on a drive-by tour of several neighborhoods in and around Charleston, looking for kit homes.
Thornton found dozens - in South Hills, in Kanawha City, in Edgewood and along the Boulevard on the West Side. Among them, a fine stucco two-story at 948 Ridgemont that Thornton calls the Gordon-Van Tine "Roberts." Ireland calls it home.
After Battle's phone call, Ireland's opinion of kit homes was destined for a makeover.
"I had always thought that was a pejorative term - something cheap," she said. "Evidently not."
Kit homes by the thousands
Catalog or kit homes were a very big thing, starting about 100 years ago. Sears, Montgomery Ward and a few other retailers began to sell kits of entire homes. You picked a design out of catalog, placed your order and, a few weeks later, your kit arrived by train.
"Everything was shipped in one boxcar, loaded to the ceiling," said Peyton, a history professor at West Virginia State University. "It came with 30,000 parts, shipped to the rail siding nearest to your building site. So for the most part, most of these kit homes were built within one or two miles of a rail siding, which makes it conducive to West Virginia.
"When it arrived at the destination, you were contacted by the railroad and you had a limited amount of time - one to two days - to unload before they started charging a fee. It was your responsibility to move it from the siding to your lot."
Some designs sold for less than $1,000. The "Glen Falls," however, a substantial Dutch Colonial, listed for $4,560 in the 1928 Sears Modern Homes Catalog.
Sears sold about 75,000 kits in the early 1900s, peaking in 1929 and ending around 1940 as the country entered World War II. Aladdin House Co. sold a similar number, while other manufacturers sold fewer, Thornton says.
A resident of Illinois, Thornton says she has worked full-time in the kit-home field since 1999. She wrote "The Houses That Sears Built" and followed up with "Finding The Houses That Sears Built," with tips on finding kit homes in your neighborhood.
"I've given more than 200 lectures and traveled to 23 states. I help communities find their kit homes and open up a piece of their history that's almost been forgotten."
A few weeks ago, she was invited to give a lecture in Beckley by a kit home enthusiast. Her host thought there might be some kit homes in Charleston, and Battle and Peyton were enlisted as guides.
"Sure enough, we found them," Thornton said. "We thought we'd find a few, but we found more than 50 in a day."
In conducting such preliminary "windshield" surveys, Thornton likes to ride in the passenger seat. She brings boxes of catalogs and other source material she's accumulated over the years. But mostly she relies on her instinct, and her memory.
"It's always a little alarming to people but Sears [kit] homes actually call to me," she said. "We actually found one hidden behind some bushes. Mr. Battle got alarmed. I said, 'Turn down here,' then 'turn down here' and we found one. He asked me, 'How did you do that?'"
Through her training, Thornton can detect a kit home quickly - even one camouflaged by layers of alterations.
"I've got a very good memory. I've got about 500 homes memorized, because you can't sit before every single house and flip through hundreds of catalog pages."
Thornton and her local guides found examples of every manufacturer in their survey a few weeks ago, Peyton said. "It would make sense you would find those houses in communities that grew between 1910 and 1940. That's when most places in the Kanawha Valley, like Belle, South Hills, Kanawha City, were really growing and people needed good homes."
To positively identify a home as a kit, Thornton prefers to go inside and look for identifying marks like stamped codes on exposed joists in the attic or basement.
But she also scores homes from the outside, using her own system, on a scale of one to 10 on how sure she is it's a kit. "If it's nine or above, I'm almost entirely confident," she said.
Among the Charleston homes on her windshield survey list, she rated eight a perfect 10 and another eight scored nine or above.
Betty Ireland's home - the Gordon-Van Tine "Roberts" - easily rated a 10, Thornton said. "It has so many unique features I've never seen in another home. That's why I gave it a 10."
A tourist attraction?
A visit inside Ireland's house last week confirmed Thornton's initial identification. Thornton was back in Charleston to follow up on her first survey and to meet with a team of magazine reporters from Virginia. At Battle's request, Ireland opened her home to a small army of strangers.
"It was very strange," Ireland said later. "I thought they were going to be going in the basement and the attic." Thornton did that, but she also poked into Ireland's bedroom closets and crawled on her hands and knees in her bathroom.
Thornton gushed over the original black-and-white floor in the bathroom. "Hexagonal tiles. People, I could just shoot 'em. They take a jackhammer and rip this stuff up."
Lying on her back, she spotted a date on the bottom of the sink. "Your sink is stamped 1917. Was your house built in 1917?
"This is a classic Gordon-Van Tine," she told a reporter. "This is the best Gordon-Van Tine design, the top of the line. One of the best features is the staircase. Look at the light. Look at the big windows.
"This house was built before air conditioning. The tall ceilings and the central staircase provide excellent ventilation. It's all designed to be a comfortable house in all four seasons."
Many communities have found they can capitalize on their kit homes, Thornton said. "There are significant tourism dollars. The No. 1 reason people go to a destination in the U.S. these days is to see something of historic significance."
Some towns create walking or driving tours, with guide maps. Some use trolleys to take tourists past their kit homes. "Every piece of the American dream is wrapped up in this."
Peyton and Battle, through the historical society, hope to bring Thornton back this fall for a more in-depth survey. "I'd like to use the students in my historic preservation class to follow up," Peyton said.
An October workshop and lecture are also possibilities, Battle said, if money can be found. The events would help celebrate the 30th anniversary of the East End Historic District.
Ireland acknowledges a newfound respect for kit homes. "It is good to know the history and we'll leave it with the house, so future owners will preserve it and not disturb the things that make it historically special."
And if her home someday appears on a map of Charleston's kit homes, and has strangers driving by day and night, Ireland can live with it.
"That's a great thing for tourism in Charleston," she said. "If that happens, I'd be happy."
June 4th, 2008, 04:35 AM
Charleston OKs parking garage repairs (http://wvgazette.com/News/200806020688)
By Andrew Clevenger, Charleston Gazette, June 3, 2008
The Charleston City Council approved $1.3 million in repairs for the city parking garage near the Charleston Civic Center at its regular meeting Monday.
The repairs are part of a $4 million plan that will upgrade the city's six parking garages over the next three years, Parking Director Alana Minear said during a Finance Committee meeting held before the council meeting Monday night.
City Manager David Molgaard said funds to begin work immediately are readily available, largely because the parking department has built up $1.1 million since 2005, including $875,000 of surplus funds rolled over from last year.
The city might want to consider issuing a bond to cover future costs, but that will be decided later, he said.
The need for capital improvements to the city's parking structures were detailed late last year in a report by consultant Carl Walker Inc.
Minear said the repairs will improve lighting, address cosmetic issues such as rusty doors and seal against leaks that can cause extensive water damage.
Each year, the city's parking department generates about $400,000 of surplus revenue, which will be used to offset future repair costs, Molgaard said.
The parking department has taken in roughly $110,000 since it took over booting vehicle's whose owners owe money for outstanding tickets from the police department, Minear said.
At the end of the council meeting, Councilman John Miller thanked Mayor Danny Jones and the other council members who had made sure that the city's public pools would remain free to the public throughout the summer.
Miller said he hoped there would not be a repeat of last summer's events. City leaders imposed a $2 admission fee at Cato Park pool on the West Side after a pool employee was pushed into the pool by some teens.
"Parents need to teach their children about the three Rs: respect, responsibility and reliability," Miller said. "If problems persist like they did last summer, we need to enforce a summer-long ban."
June 5th, 2008, 03:36 AM
Capitol Street building experiencing rebirth (http://dailymail.com/News/200806040183)
By George Hohmann, Charleston Daily Mail, June 4, 2008
Passersby haven't had much to see at 209 Capitol St. these last few weeks. The front windows have been papered over and although there's been some noise, it's mostly come from inside the cavernous structure.
That's changing this week.
Workers have cut holes in the brick for windows on the side of the building that faces Spyro's parking lot, replaced missing masonry and sealed the areas where the building formerly shared floor beams with a long-gone structure. Within the week, they'll paint that side of the building.
They're also working on the front of the building. Although the front won't change much in appearance, there will be a big difference when workers take the paper off the windows and the empty inside of the building can be seen.
A firm led by members of the law firm of Bailey & Glasser purchased the 115-year-old building earlier this year for $525,000 from the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority. They are investing $2 million to turn the structure into modern office space.
Dave Pray of PrayWorks, Charleston, who is managing the renovation, pointed out some of the building's history that has been revealed since the structure was emptied of 100 tons of debris.
The area above a heavy metal door on the second floor is scorched -- a telltale reminder of the deadly fire that occurred next door on March 4, 1949. That's when the Woolworth Five and Dime, housed in an identical building, burned. That fire killed seven firefighters in the most deadly blaze the city Fire Department has ever seen.
Less dramatic history is visible on the first floor, where workers have uncovered several "K" monograms - reminders that S.S. Kresge's, the predecessor to Kmart, once occupied the building.
Pray and Ben Bailey, partner in the law firm, believe the building was originally the equivalent of a shopping center because, after it opened in 1892 or 1893, it contained several tenants.
"It's where the Diamond Shoe and Garment Co. first started business -- before it moved up the street," Pray said. Diamond Shoe and Garment eventually became the Diamond Department Store, a Charleston retail landmark that endured until the early 1980s.
The building at 209 Capitol St. became a S.S. Kresge's around 1927 or 1928, Pray said. In the 1980s it became a Rite Aid. Later it was a McCrory's and then a Dollar General. Pray pointed out that the masonry bearing, wood floor structure had been vacant for five years before the principals in Bailey and Glasser bought it.
Pray and Bailey agree that federal and state historic tax credits have made the project possible.
"I sincerely believe that if it were not for this tax incentive program, 209 Capitol St. would be a surface parking lot," Pray said.
"We would not have bought this building without the tax credits," Bailey said.
Here's how the tax credits work:
* You have to have an historic structure. The building at 209 Capitol St. is a "certified historic structure" because it is a "contributing building in a National Register historic district."
* As you plan renovations, you must work with the State Historic Preservation Office to preserve that which is historic. In the case of 209 Capitol St., that involved a team that included Pray and the project architects, GBBN of Cincinnati and John Harris of Bastian & Harris Architects, Charleston.
* Qualifying projects receive 30 percent of certified rehabilitation expenses in tax credits, with 20 percent coming from the federal government and 10 percent coming from the state. The credits can be taken by the entity that owns the building or sold.
"Basically it means that roughly 30 cents of every dollar we spend after the purchase of this building, we get back," Bailey said. "On this building, that made the difference. Without those credits, it didn't make sense financially. With them, it was a no-brainer."
Pray and Bailey believe this is the first major renovation project to be undertaken since the downtown area was designated an historic district. Some observers apparently thought too much red tape was required to make the tax credits worthwhile. Pray and Bailey disagree.
"I think this project will prove the wisdom of making this area an historic district," Bailey said. "The historic preservation program saved this building."
On a recent tour, Pray showed how the building's various occupants reconfigured the interior time and again over the years. Stairwells were cut into floors, only to be removed later. As a result, numerous floor beams have been replaced to ensure the building's structural integrity. A few of the massive 12x12 wood posts holding up the structure also have been reinforced with steel plates out of an abundance of caution. Pray credits Jud Ham Jr. of Ham Engineering, South Charleston, for the structural engineering work.
Some of the flooring has been replaced, and all of the floors will receive a coat of liquid gypsum so they'll be smooth and level.
Care has been taken to demolish the interior in an environmentally friendly way. Construction workers recycled about $8,000 worth of scrap metal from the debris, Pray said. Also, clean debris like bricks were separated so they wouldn't be landfilled.
Although the renovation work has revealed some of the building's secrets, much remains unknown.
"Several people have told me there was a mezzanine in Kresge's," Pray said. "I'd love to know more. Anybody with knowledge, I hope they'll raise their hand." The basement contains what amounts to a vault - a room sealed off by a massive metal door. It's another mystery. Pray can be reached at 720-0880.
"I love the building," said Bailey, who is enthused about the opportunities the structure offers his law firm. The front of the first floor will have 12-foot ceilings covered in pressed tin, similar to the ceiling that was in Kresge's. Workers have installed two exhibits - a swath of tin much like the original and another swath with tin that, upon close inspection, contains thousands of tiny holes. "That's to improve the acoustics," Bailey explained.
There will be a spacious lobby, a big conference room and a new elevator.
But it's the new windows on the side of the building that will make the most difference, Bailey said. "The introduction of all of that light is what makes this building come to life."
Project contractor is Pray Construction Co. of Scott Depot. Dave Pray is writing a blog about the renovation. It can be found online at http://209capitolstreet.blogspot.com/2008/02/welcome-to.html.
Asked how long a useful life the building will have when renovations are complete, Pray thought a moment. The threat of fire in downtowns is diminished compared to what it was in the past, he noted. If the building can avoid stress like an earthquake, "it should be useful for a few more generations," he said.
The law firm expects to move in by October. It will occupy the basement, first and second floors. The third floor is for rent. Each floor contains about 9,000 square feet.
Bailey & Glasser has occupied the nearby Scott Drug Building, at 227 Capitol St., for almost a decade. The firm is moving because it has outgrown that space. The Scott Drug Building will be for sale.
June 16th, 2008, 05:05 AM
Thanks for all the info Seicer! I love reading about revitalization when it comes to Charleston or Huntington.
June 18th, 2008, 06:00 AM
^ Happy to do so :)
Jones makes another push to expand riverfront (http://dailymail.com/News/200806170132)
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, June 17, 2008
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones is renewing his push to expand the city's riverfront and cut two lanes off Kanawha Boulevard.
At a City Council meeting Monday, Jones, council members, and representatives from the Charleston Area Alliance had a teleconference with Bill Barberg, president of Insightformation, Inc.
The Minnesota-based consulting company has been helping the city prioritize its goals for improving the quality of life in the area and increasing business and tourism.
Talk about waterfront development riled up Jones, who has long said taking advantage of the Kanawha River is key to improving Charleston and luring more tourists here.
"It would change this city dramatically," Jones said.
In 2005, Massachusetts-based consultants Sasaki Associates, Inc. was hired to develop a master plan for the waterfront area between the 35th Street and Patrick Street bridges.
The changes included trimming down two lanes of traffic along the Boulevard or slimming the lanes by two feet and eliminating the median. The aim was to maximize pedestrian walking space on both sides of the Boulevard.
But Jones said riverfront expansion is not a popular topic with some residents or the local media.
"We can't even get support of the two newspapers in this town," Jones said. "They care more about cars than people."
Jones estimated that 50 percent of the population supports expanding the riverfront.
Jones said project would bring more people to the downtown area, which in turn would help local businesses.
Other options that came from the Sasaki study included improving Magic Island and refurbishing Haddad Riverfront Park.
The city got help earlier this year when Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., helped funnel $2.4 million in federal appropriations to renovate the park.
The first step is a canopy that will be erected over the concert area. It's tentatively scheduled to be complete in 2009.
Jones said Monday he doesn't believe the Charleston Area Alliance board would support the expansion effort.
The Alliance acts as the city's economic development agency.
Matt Ballard, president of the Alliance, was more optimistic.
"I think the board would support it, mayor," Ballard said.
Jones said cost is another hurdle the city has to overcome.
Without community support, Jones said finding funding for the project would be difficult.
Three years ago, Sasaki estimated the total riverfront expansion would cost close to $30 million.
"That was $30 million a few years ago. Who knows what it would be now?" Jones said. "Unless we have consensus, it's going to be hard to bring in federal money."
June 25th, 2008, 02:27 AM
Funding proves difficult for Boulevard condo project (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200806200079)
Charleston Daily Mail, June 20, 2008
A condominium/office project for Kanawha Boulevard still has not begun a year or more after the Howard family got permits.
And although there's no specific starting date yet, the project - The Boulevard at 2412 - is very much alive, brothers Ed and Richard Howard said.
They attributed the delay to a downturn in the housing market.
"There was a lot of talk, by different parties in the city and state, a lot of inquiries, back when property values were pretty high, because people wanted to downsize to a 2,000 or 2,500-square-foot condominium," Ed Howard said.
"They were banking on getting top dollar for their homes. All of a sudden the housing market turned around and got a little squirrelly."
At the same time, banks tightened their mortgage policies as a result of the sub-prime lending crisis, he said.
Because of the size and cost of the project - at least $20 million to build 60 condos, offices and a senior center in seven buildings - the Howards needed to pre-sell a minimum number of units before starting construction of the largest building. That apparently didn't happen.
Still, some construction could begin this year, Ed Howard said. Negotiations continue with the neighboring Kanawha Valley Senior Services to start construction of an activities center - "hopefully within six weeks to two months."
Also, the developers hope to lock in low-interest financing and build an 18-unit building on the north side of Washington Street this year, regardless of presales. "As far as that building goes, it could be any time," Howard said.
Adam Krason, the Howards' architect from ZMM, told members of the city's Historic Landmarks Commission Thursday that the 18-unit building will go up first.
"The timing isn't as good as we'd hoped. We're hoping this summer. Plans have been submitted to the city for a building permit. That's the first piece. The second potentially is for Kanawha Valley Senior Services."
Krason asked the agency for a five-year extension on the certificate of appropriateness the group approved in May of 2007. "Since we met last, nothing has changed except the plans are more fully developed," he said. "The owners are moving forward with presales."
Commission members approved the extension, as recommended by Lori Brannon of the city Planning Department. The Howards recently got a similar five-year extension on several height variances from the Board of Zoning Appeals, Brannon said.
June 25th, 2008, 02:29 AM
Destruction of smokestacks marks end of an era -- and a new beginning (http://dailymail.com/News/200806230047)
By Ashley B. Craig, Charleston Daily Mail, June 23, 2008
The demolition of the last remaining smokestacks of FMC Corp's old steam plant marked the end of an era for the South Charleston area and those who worked there.
At 8 a.m. Sunday, nearly 100 people gathered on Brownfield Way behind the Advance Auto Parts across from the South Charleston mound to watch Bianchi Industrial Services, a demolition group out of Syracuse, N.Y., destroy the last two smokestacks of the old FMC steam plant.
Many of the steam plant's former employees came to witness the destruction of their old workplace.
Bobby Young, 78, stood by a high chain-link fence watching and waiting while his old stomping grounds stalled before tumbling in a heap of smoke. With his red and white FMC cap and sunglasses, he waited more than 20 minutes for the smokestack, which served as a break room for the group he worked with, to fall.
Young, who is from St. Albans, worked in boiler repair and in the powerhouse among other places around the old steam plant. There was a break room complete with a refrigerator and air conditioning situated in the last smokestack to fall. Young retired in 1992.
"I always kind of figured I'd be [working] there until the end, but I wasn't," said Young. "Forty-two years kind of makes it feel like home."
Another man and his daughter waited through a delay in demolishing the second smokestack, even though they were on their way to church. Tom Lawson, 65, of Charleston worked at FMC for 25 years, spending 10 years at the steam plant and was among the last group to leave the plant.
"I had a lot of friends there. We see each other at things like this and we shake hands and talk about old times, it brings back a lot of memories," Lawson said, nodding his head back at Young.
Lawson and Young hadn't seen each other in a while, but the former coworkers posed for a picture together for Lawson's daughter.
The spectacle started at 7:59 a.m. when the last warning siren sounded from the South Charleston Fire Department trucks that were diverting traffic on MacCorkle Avenue in front of the site. One minute later four booming explosions rung out, echoing off the mountains that surrounded the "Chemical Valley," as it was once known.
The first smokestack, as seen from the left on Brownfield Way, wavered then leaned forward and to the right before falling to the ground and causing a dark gray cloud to billow up around it. The second smokestack took its time falling to the ground.
Mark Bosell of Bianchi Industrial Services said the explosions went off as planned but instead of knocking the second stack down, the blast blew the bottom out and caused the concrete structure to squat on its foundation.
Officials said this was the first demolition of its kind in the Kanawha Valley since the destruction of the smokestacks at the old Libbey-Owens-Ford glass factory in Kanawha City in the early 1980s. At least eight smokestacks were demolished after the plant closed.
The demolition of the smokestacks in South Charleston will mean eight acres of prime riverfront land for the city of South Charleston once the land is cleaned up through the "Brownfields" land reclamation project. The project's goal is to rid the land of chemicals and other harmful substances that may be left behind in the footprints of the huge chemical plants that once stood along the Kanawha River.
It is a voluntary project that FMC started in May 1997. A Rite Aid now stands on reclaimed land along with a body shop and service center owned by the Joe Holland car dealership.
"The whole purpose is to return the land to productive use," said David Hight, a project manager for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. "It was an outdated plant. I hate to see the jobs go, but the point is to get the land redeveloped to bring more jobs in."
The "Brownfields" project works with the community and listens to what residents want for the land, Jim Bodamer of FMC explained. Bodamer has been working on the site since 1996 and serves on the Public Advisory Group for the project.
Bob Anderson, director of the South Charleston Convention and Visitor's Bureau, hopes to put new businesses on the reclaimed land for the future development of the city and to bring in more jobs. Anderson said that a shopping mall is a possibility for the site.
The steam plant began operations in the 1920's on MacCorkle Avenue in the Spring Hill area of South Charleston. The plant originally had six stacks. Two stacks were demolished years before the plant closed in 2003 and another pair was dismantled brick-by-brick from top to bottom around the time the plant ceased operations.
For the workers who gathered to witness Sunday's demolition, the sight was bittersweet.
"Companies are sending businesses overseas," Lawson said. "South Charleston used to be the 'Chemical Capital of the World' and now there's hardly anything left of it."
June 26th, 2008, 05:13 PM
Streetlights improve safety, beauty of East End (http://dailymail.com/News/200806240142)
Lights part of $1.5 million project that also added new trees, improved roads, sidewalks
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, June 24, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- New streetlights are illumining a section of Washington Street East from the Capitol Complex to the Charleston Area Medical Center.
The lights were erected earlier this month. It was the culmination of a $1.5 million streetscape project overseen by the East End Main Street program.
Other work included planting new trees and improving roads and sidewalks in the area.
Ric Cavender, the program manager for East End Main Street, said the energy-efficient streetlights were set up to help improve safety and beautify the area.
"It serves a great purpose, but it also just looks great," Cavender said. "We hope it will make the East End more appealing for businesses downtown."
Cavender took the position in March when former director Mary Alice Hodgson left for a position in the office of Mayor Danny Jones.
He said the streetscape plan was initiated when the Main Street program was established in 2002.
"My understanding is that it was one of the first priorities," he said.
A program of the Charleston Area Alliance, East End Main Street began with the intent of promoting and preserving the neighborhood.
Cavender said various city groups, including the Mayor's Office Of Economic Development, Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, and Charleston Area Alliance, worked on the streetscape effort.
The funds for the project came from a $984,000 Transportation Equity Act grant, which was administered through the state Division of Highways.
The grant required a 20 percent match.
The Mayor's Office Of Economic Development and the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority supplied the difference, Cavender said.
Cavender said construction began around the East End last summer.
The streetlights were the final piece in the project's completion. They were finished last week, Cavender said.
He said the group is pleased with the outcome.
"It gives us a feeling the East End was needing," Cavender said.
A Charleston native, 25-year-old Cavender said he's working hard to enhance the East End.
He said the group is laboring over other projects, including the long awaited free Wi-Fi Internet service for residents and businesses in the East End.
Last July, East End Main Street received a $25,000 Local Economic Development Assistance Grant from the West Virginia Development Office to fund the project.
The plan is to bring high-speed Internet to 12,000 residents and more than 200 business in the neighborhood.
Cavender said the group is excited about the idea.
"The main purpose is economic development and to give a service to the East End and their businesses," Cavender said. "We want to make sure everyone gets it."
Cavender was mum on the specific details of the plan. He said the group is taking its time to ensure the service is perfect when it launches.
"The best I can tell you today is stay tuned," Cavender said. "We are in the first phases of the project and everyone should be hearing something very soon."
June 26th, 2008, 05:19 PM
Half a million buys UC condo (http://wvgazette.com/News/200806240593)
By Tara Tuckwiller, Charleston Gazette, June 25, 2008
Everyone may soon have an opportunity to buy one of the luxury condos the University of Charleston plans to build near its campus.
Everyone with at least $520,000, that is.
Until now, UC has offered the condos only privately, to a handful of selected potential buyers. But college officials have said they won't break ground unless they sell 14 of the 16 condos, and that hasn't happened.
The priciest condos - the $1 million-plus penthouse units - were all reserved by buyers by November, but now "we've had one or two of those open up," said Cleta Harless, vice president for administration and finance.
UC is still marketing the penthouses to its private buyer list, but "there is potentially the opportunity for the general public to be able to purchase those," she said.
"We're looking toward a public offering event week after next."
The event will be open to anyone who wants to attend. Potential buyers will hear a presentation and see drawings of the condos, plus hands-on examples of what the insides of the condos will be like.
"We have different floor finishes, plumbing fixtures, a section of wall with crown molding and baseboards that give the purchaser a feel for the quality of workmanship," Harless said.
Certain finishes will come standard - granite countertops, hardwood throughout most of each condo, with carpet in the bedrooms and ceramic tile in certain areas - but buyers "can customize whatever they want," Harless said.
"These are high-end units ... If you don't like granite countertops and you want marble, you can have that." Or, she said buyers could trade the granite countertops for something less expensive if they want to spend more on the bathroom, for example.
All of the condos have at least one balcony overlooking the Kanawha River, and some have more. All also have a field or hillside view. One change has been made in the $18 million building in recent months: The number of condos has been reduced from 17 to 16.
"The interest we've received is that our clientele would like to have the larger units," Harless said. "We've taken four-unit floors and converted them to three-unit floors."
No date has been set yet for the public offering, Harless said. If enough condos sell, construction could begin in September.
However, if 14 of the condos haven't sold within a certain time frame after the offering - the tentative time frame for potential buyers to consider the offer is 30 days, Harless said - then UC officials will have a decision to make.
"There's a legal process of communicating with existing purchasers," Harless said. "We'll make a determination whether we can just extend the date, or scrap the project and start over."
June 27th, 2008, 02:41 PM
Something old, something new on West Side (http://dailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200806250224)
School that opened as junior high for black kids in 1939 torn down to clear site for new elementary
By Kelly Holleran, Charleston Daily Mail, June 25, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A little piece of Charleston's history has been torn down to make way for one of two proposed elementary schools on the West Side.
Piles of lumber, bricks, steel and remnants of old lockers lay where the former Cabell Alternative School once stood along Kanawha Boulevard West.
The school at the corner of Florida Street and Second Avenue was torn down last week.
Before the facility was used for students having trouble succeeding and staying out of trouble in the school system, it was a junior high for black children.
Cabell Junior High was built in 1939 after West Side parents, many of whom worked at Kelly Ax, pushed for a school in the neighborhood.
The evolution of the school is chronicled in "Black Past," a 1989 book that tells the history of the African-American community in the Kanawha Valley.
Many black families had settled in that part of the West Side because the ax factory provided them with jobs. But when their children reached junior high school age, they were forced to ride a streetcar to Boyd Junior High -- another black school -- in the East End.
The school was named in honor of Isom Cabell, an early educator and teacher at the first Garnet School. He was later principal at Washington Grade School.
Fred Page, a teacher at Boyd, was named principal of Cabell and remained there throughout the school's 17 years of existence.
In 1956, the school was set aside for disaffected youths and its name changed.
It was Cabell Alternative throughout the 80s and 90s, but its doors closed to all students five years ago.
Just last week, huge excavators were used to level the building, along with water to keep the dust down, said Chuck Wilson, manager of facilities and planning for the school system.
School Superintendent Ron Duerring said the county is determined to get the West Side elementary school project started.
The school system was awarded $8.5 million this spring by the state School Building Authority to build the new school. The total project cost is estimated at $13.4 million and the school is supposed to be built by July 2010. Construction is slated to start in July 2009.
About $2.5 million of the remainder of the project cost will come from the county's excess levy, which passed in May.
To make up the rest, county school officials have said they plan to sell bonds, if voters approve this fall.
Wilson said the cost to tear down the old school was about $50,000.
The school system is paying for that out of general funds, but will pay it back using a portion of the $2.5 million in designated excess levy money, Duerring said.
The new school will replace Chandler and Glenwood elementary schools, which have a combined enrollment of 323 students.
The next step in the building process will be to do environmental tests on the site, Wilson said.
After that, school officials will interview architects and will work with them to develop a layout. School officials said they would consult with students, parents and neighborhood residents before deciding on a design.
"We want input from the schools and the community," Wilson said.
Once the architects and school administrators have come up with a rough sketch, architects will go back to fill in detailed design work, Wilson said.
School officials also hope to build a second new elementary school on the West Side, possibly on city-owned land near Cato Park and Edgewood Drive.
That building would allow the county to consolidate the aging J.E. Robins and Watts elementary schools.
School officials have spent more than two years trying to figure out the best way to consolidate J.E. Robins, Chandler, Glenwood, Grandview and Watts. There has been debate over whether Grandview should be included because it is considered to be in the best shape of the five. Grandview, which is in North Charleston, was left out of the current plans and would continue to operate as is.
When school board members submitted a plan in 2005 for two new West Side schools, the state School Building Authority denied Kanawha County funding until officials had a plan to provide some local money. Last year, the authority decided not to fund any projects in the state because it already had so many projects underway.
Duerring said he is extremely grateful now for the opportunity to build the new school.
"This is a dream come true," he said. "We're really trying to get the new schools on the West Side up and running."
June 27th, 2008, 02:43 PM
Pshew! I photographed the exterior of this building a few weeks ago and was surprised to see such a grand building laying dormant. Good to see it being donated and not demolished (I misread when I first looked at the article!).
PSC OKs building donation (http://wvgazette.com/News/200806260633)
Sheriff, prosecutor to move offices into old AEP headquarters
By Rusty Marks, Charleston Gazette, June 27, 2008
The West Virginia Public Service Commission approved the donation of the old American Electric Power headquarters to the Kanawha County Commission on Thursday.
AEP officials agreed to give the building to county officials last year, but the deal required final approval by the PSC, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said. The building is worth $2 million to $3 million, making it the most valuable gift ever made to the county.
Built in the 1930s next door to the Kanawha County Courthouse, the building has more than 20,000 square feet of space and has its own parking building. Sheriff Mike Rutherford has coveted the building for years, and is already using several rooms for equipment storage.
"It would be excellent for the sheriff's department to move their offices in there," Carper said Thursday. Rutherford has already made plans to move most of the department into the building.
Rutherford has said the building's 20-bay parking area has enough room to store the county's three bomb trucks, bomb trailer and SWAT truck. The vehicles are spread out in several locations around the county. He has said the garage wash bay could save $10,000 a year in the cost of washing sheriff's cruisers.
Carper also wants to move the prosecuting attorney's office into the old building, adding that the county spends about $100,000 a year renting space for the prosecutor's office.
Final plans for the building will require approval of the County Commission. Carper plans to talk about the building at a commission meeting Tuesday.
Carper said renovations to the historic building could be made in stages.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to get started on it before the end of this year," he said.
July 11th, 2008, 05:14 AM
What kind of park director says that bulldozing a trail so that three can stand abreast is perfectly acceptable? The reasoning was that so more people could fit onto the trail and so that maintenance crews could drive their trucks onto the property and clear dead trees. Whatever happened to using chainsaws to clear out the dead wood like every other park and facility, and carrying the gear to the site?
Have we become that lazy?
Park users want voice in plans for Coonskin's future (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200807090785)
By Paula Kaufman, Charleston Gazette, July 10, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Coonskin Park users aired their grievances over a proposed golf driving range and trail problems at a meeting with Kanawha County parks officials Wednesday.
Many of the people there complained about a lack of communication. They said trails were taken out and irrevocably changed with little notice or public commenting period.
Jeff Hutchinson, county parks director, said the driving range being put in at Coonskin has been discussed at county Parks Commission meetings for three years.
Joni Adams, a teacher and member of West Virginia Mountain Trail Runners, noted those meetings are at 9 a.m. during the week. "Most people work 9 to 5," she said.
People who use the park regularly, like Charleston residents Nancy Ward and Laura Phillips, did not know about the Parks Commission's actions until it was too late.
Trails were a primary concern discussed Wednesday. Three mudslides resulting from airport runway construction have made parts of Coonskin's trails impassable. Other parts of the trails were recently cleared for the new driving range.
The Pine Trail and Patriot Trail were widened with a bulldozer. These alterations were unrelated to the driving range.
The narrow trails are now muddy swaths, more conducive to all-terrain-vehicle riders than runners or mountain bikers who prefer single-lane trails, said Adams.
For 10 years, Adams brought her public school students to the Coonskin trails. With hand tools they tended the trails, cutting around hemlocks. They paid attention to flora and fauna and the natural contour of the land.
"Why waste my time volunteering to work on the trails if someone is going to come and bulldoze them?" asked Adams, holding a poster showing before and after photographs of the trails.
Adams said commissioners did not inform the public of these activities either before or after they occurred.
Hutchinson said these trails were significantly widened for accessibility, so parks crews could come in to clear away dead trees.
"There's a miscommunication going on between what they consider a trail and what the parks board considers a trail," Hutchinson said after the meeting.
"What they consider a trail I would call a deer path. What I consider a trail is something where two or three people can walk abreast..."
A meeting will be held Wednesday at the Coonskin Clubhouse to create a comprehensive trail plan for Coonskin, following a Kanawha County Parks board meeting. Ken Dzaack, land manager for the Canaan Valley Institute, will be there to draft the plan and receive input. The meeting starts at 10 a.m and is open to the public.
To try to meet the needs of all park users, Hutchinson said Dzaack will help parks officials create a comprehensive trails plan for the park. Part of the plan would be to map all the park's trails, mark them and rate them.
"It will be done like ski trails," Hutchinson said. "It will be done by level of difficulty and accessibility."
In a city looking for more green space, Ward says the existing trails were just fine.
"There is a major disconnect between the efforts of the city to create more land trusts, green spaces, trails and walkways and the county commission," said Ward.
Ward wants to see a plan enacted where the land is not altered without adequately notifying the public. Throughout the project no signs were posted in Coonskin. "If a pool is closed, you put a sign on the pool," she said.
July 15th, 2008, 02:58 AM
Mayors keep open mind about metro plan (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200807110207)
County leaders invited to view Louisville, Ky., metro government
Charleston Daily Mail, July 11, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Some Kanawha County mayors still have lots of questions about metro government.
The concept would allow cities and counties to merge services. The combined areas then could take advantage of federal grants and other services available to regions with larger populations.
But, as with anything, the devil is in the details.
For the most part, the Kanawha County Commission has focused the idea for the eastern part of the county. The area contains many small towns struggling to provide basic services for citizens.
The commission has also reached out to Clendenin in northern Kanawha County.
"It just seemed like those areas have a commonality," County Commission President Kent Carper said. "There's a better opportunity to do it in those parts now."
Some western Kanawha County cities, Dunbar, St. Albans and South Charleston, have not been mentioned in the preliminary plans.
The mayors of these towns are wondering if the long-term metro strategy will affect their respective towns.
"The biggest thing we're concerned about is losing the identity of our government," said Dunbar Mayor Roger Wolfe. "I know the people of Dunbar don't want that."
Wolfe said day-by-day he's learning more about metro government.
He said some aspects of the plan could be valuable for Dunbar.
"I think sharing in some of the services, especially fire and police, could be good," Wolfe said. "I really believe it is something that everyone needs to look at to see what's most beneficial for the taxpayers."
Earlier this week, the commission sent a memo to all mayors in Kanawha County inviting them to join a field trip to Louisville, Ky. The area has had a form of metro government since it combined services with neighboring towns in 2003.
The county hopes the trip will answer officials' questions on metro government.
St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway said he's opened-minded about the metro concept.
Callaway said he's interested to see if local governments such as city and town councils would be altered by the concept. He said many of the mayors are worried they'll lose representation if taken over by bigger entities.
"The rule of thumb is usually the government that's closest to you works the best," Callaway said. "The question is how would metro government function over such a structure?"
Callaway said he hopes these questions will be answered as discussions intensify.
"We need to look at all options to see what's best for citizens and our local government in order to maintain quality services," Callaway said.
Carper said the process is still in the early stages. The commission is looking for funding options to study metro government and bring it to fruition.
"The goal is to define what we want to do or what we think we can do," Carper said.
South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens said he's glad the commission has left out his city in the metro discussions.
In June 2007, Mullens ran an anti-metro government campaign, which he claims led him to his first mayoral term.
Metro government would require 60 percent approval by county voters. Mullens said the issue wouldn't pass with the people of South Charleston.
"I walked the campaign trail; I know what people are thinking," Mullens said. "I could venture that probably 80 percent or better of people in South Charleston feel the same way I do."
Mullens said metro government would work better in the eastern part of the county because many of those towns struggle to provide services to citizens.
Mullens said metro government would take away autonomy from South Charleston. He said the city is self-sufficient in providing its services.
"I'm not interested in dealing with metro government now," Mullens said. "I've got other issues to deal with right here in South Charleston."
July 16th, 2008, 01:43 PM
University of Charleston's luxury condos on market until Jan. 1 (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200807140554)
By Tara Tuckwiller, Charleston Gazette, July 15, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The University of Charleston's luxury riverfront condo project is officially open to all buyers - until Jan. 1.
On that date, "if we don't have 14 [condos] sold, we will probably cancel the project," UC Vice President Cleta Harless told potential buyers Monday night.
Handpicked buyers had already reserved six of the 16 planned condos before Monday night, when UC invited the general public to buy. Another signed up at Monday night's meeting, Harless said.
About 30 potential buyers sipped wine and munched crudités in UC's art-strewn Erma Byrd Gallery, studying architects' renderings and floor plans of the proposed building.
"I live in Jackson County," said Paula Dubites, 44, a registered nurse who works at Charleston Surgical Hospital. "With fuel prices what they are, it makes sense to move a little closer.
"It's something I think is a good investment in the long run, too. The neighborhood is nice, and I think it's going to continue to grow. I just have to look at my budget and see if I can afford it."
The minimum price for the condos is more than previously reported: $770,000, with some larger units going for $1.3 million. Harless said the price hasn't actually gone up, but the $520,000 starting price UC officials originally reported in two previous Gazette articles did not count interior finishing.
Buyers must also donate at least $75,000 to UC over the life of their ownership. That's a change, Harless said Monday night.
Before, UC retained the right of first refusal anytime an owner decided to sell his or her condo - but UC would pay only 80 percent of fair market value. Potential buyers didn't like that arrangement, Harless said, so UC has substituted the $75,000 donation, which buyers seem to like better.
UC still retains the right to buy back the condos, but at fair market value, she said.
Besides the purchase price and donation, owners would also pay annual condo association dues - about $10,000 on average, or up to $14,000 for the largest units. The dues would cover some utilities, including water, sewer, basic phone, Internet and cable, Harless said, but not gas or electricity.
The condos range from 2,100 to 3,200 square feet. UC plans upscale touches like a separate elevator for delivery people and coded security gates in the parking garage.
"If you want diamonds in your countertops, you can have diamonds in your countertops," Harless told buyers. "You just might have to pay extra for those."
The Jan. 1 deadline will keep those who have already reserved their condos from having to wait any longer to find out whether the project will be built, Harless said.
"We have fielded some calls about the market ... about what the housing market is likely to do," she said.
"If we were to go right now, we're in good shape. If we wait three months, I don't know."
If UC gets enough buyers and can break ground before winter, the condos would be finished within 12 months, she said. If the project doesn't get off the ground, all deposits will be refunded, she said.
July 18th, 2008, 05:52 AM
Tempers flare over Coonskin (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200807160654)
By Kellen Henry, Charleston Gazette, July 17, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Coonskin Park patrons and members of the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Commission broke into a heated argument Wednesday morning over trails and a new golf center at the park.
About 15 park users attended Wednesday's meeting to voice discontent over trails bulldozed to make way for the planned 16-acre facility, featuring a driving range. They said they also are not willing to concede the green spaces their tax dollars support.
Typically, members of the public are allowed only two minutes to speak at the meetings, said Anna Dailey, vice president of the commission.
However, several park patrons spoke at length, saying they had not been adequately notified of plans to change the areas and that the board was treating their concerns insincerely.
Members of the public and commissioners raised their voices and frequently interrupted each other, largely keeping the discussion from progressing. Dailey disputed statements by trail patrons that the board did not care about trail building and implications that the board had not adequately notified the public.
"I don't want to just create procedures that end up being violated," Dailey said.
Trail patron Nancy Ward told the board she did not know about the commission's plans to bulldoze the trails until it was too late. Because Kanawha County has so few green spaces, she said, the groups that oversee them should make sure the public has a say in what happens to them.
"A driving range is not an equal green space with trails and forested areas," Ward said. "We question whether it's the job of the park system maintained by taxpayers to produce revenue."
The commission printed a notice in the newspaper and posted its agenda in the park's clubhouse before the project began, as required by law. Trail users said they wanted to see signs posted at the sites of proposed construction areas. Ward said by the time she realized she should attend one of the open meetings, the damage already had been done.
Commissioner Patrick Donahoe agreed with the park patrons that the board could do more to inform the public.
"Maybe we should have an alternative method of notification. Hikers don't come in the clubhouse," he said. "We can't replant those trees, but we can take a look at passing a resolution. I don't think that's too much to ask."
Members of the board asked for debate to end so they could continue with the agenda and maintain order, after two statements from attendants and several outbursts from others seated in the meeting.
Ben Lowman, an aquatic biologist for the state Department of Environmental Protection, attempted to speak to the commission after they moved on with the agenda. They asked him to be silent after he said he was not representing the DEP with his statements.
"Your arrogance will cost you," Lowman told the board as he left the meeting. Dailey asked if he was "threatening" the commissioners.
Park police chief Randy West also took some members of the public out of the meeting after one man called the officer a "jerk" for telling him to stop speaking during the meeting.
The golf center has been discussed for about three years and the first phase of construction already is completed, said Jeff Hutchinson, director of the commission. Construction should finish in early fall, and the facility should open next spring.
The center will be near the Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium and will facilitate The First Tee program, which promotes character education and values through golf education for young people, he said.
"We do have a vision here. It includes many types of recreation, not just one type of recreation," Hutchinson said.
Coonskin Park is an artificial construction intended to be a community recreation area and not a preserved forest area, like Kanawha State Forest, he said.
Some trail users are upset about land clearing that occurred along the park's Fitness Trail during the golf center construction. Bulldozing and widening also occurred along the Pine Trail and Patriot Trail, unrelated to the construction.
Joni Adams, a teacher and trail runner, spoke about her work maintaining the Patriot Trail over the last 10 years. She said she did not feel the commission respected the time she and her students spent volunteering.
"The trail will never be back to where it was," Adams said. "I don't think the trails here are a priority."
Hutchinson said widening of these trails allows more people to walk them and is necessary in case of emergencies. In the case of an accident, the park would be liable and not the private individuals who maintained the area.
The commission has invited Ken Dzaack, land manager for the Canaan Valley Institute, to attend the public meeting next Thursday, July 24 at 10 a.m. The institute will help create a trail plan for Coonskin Park. Board members hope this will be a forum to move forward on the trail issues.
"I'm sorry that people on both sides had words, but I hope they are not discouraged," Dailey said after the meeting. "I think that anytime you have people in the community involved in a discussion, it is constructive."
July 18th, 2008, 05:54 AM
Washington Street projects approved (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200807160692)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, July 17, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From one end of Washington Street to the other, improvement projects got the green light Wednesday from Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board members.
First up was the Charleston YWCA, which won approval for a playground and landscaping project at its Sojourners shelter on Washington Street East. As YW Director Deb Weinstein explained, the request - and approval - is somewhat after the fact as most of the work is already done.
The work is being done thanks to the West Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association, said group president Cary Levenson, owner of Valley Gardens in Charleston.
"We decided, in lieu of our annual summer meeting, to put together a project. Me being president, I decided to do that first project in Charleston. We selected Sojourners for several reasons, especially the children. We felt we could help them the most.
"They had an empty vacant lot. The facilities were marginal at best. We decided to redesign it with the help of two local engineers - Triad and GAI. I'm proud to say we're near completion. We'll have nearly $100,000 in this project."
Weinstein called it a feel-good project. "This is something we've wanted for such a long time and didn't know how to do ourselves."
In addition to making over a small existing playground, the group has landscaped a narrow side yard that was once unusable, adding a basketball court.
"Everyone is absolutely excited," shelter Director Margaret Taylor said. "We're going to have an area where people can sit down, and the guys are excited they'll have an area they can hoop. We are truly grateful about you approving this project because we have 20 kids ready to go out there."
In other business Wednesday, CURA board members:
# Agreed to give $230,000 to the Kanawha-Charleston Housing Authority, for its new headquarters on the West Side. Director Mark Taylor said the housing authority recently signed a $3.2 million contract with Capital Builders of Huntington to renovate several older store buildings at 1521-29 Washington Street West.
The CURA money will be used for façade improvements, which the CURA board approved a month ago, Taylor said - brick and stone work, storefront doors and windows, stucco and a new lobby and canopy.
Work should begin by September and be finished in six months, he said. "I'd love to be there in December but, realistically, April."
# Approved façade design plans submitted by Tammy Frazie for several buildings she owns at 1601-07 Washington St. West. She said she plans to lease the first floors as commercial space and upper floors as residential.
July 23rd, 2008, 06:20 AM
Federal funds could bring rail-trail project to life (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200807210138)
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, July 21, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A long awaited West Side walking and biking trail may finally come to fruition, if Congress grants $2 million for the project.
Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., passed legislation that includes nearly $10 million for projects in Charleston and Kanawha County.
It included $2 million for the Kanawha Trestle Rail Trail.
For years, West Side planners have wanted to convert the old CSX Transportation train bridge, which crosses the Kanawha River near Cabell Field on the West Side, into a bicycle route and pedestrian walkway.
It would be part of a proposed six-mile recreation trail leading from the Mound in South Charleston to the Capitol Complex.
Dennis Strawn, a member of the West Side Neighborhood Association, has been the project's coordinator. He said if Congress approves the appropriation, the project could get off the ground.
"The plan has the support and we have the cooperation of the city," Strawn said. "Now we just need the funding."
Strawn has been working on the trestle project for five years. He is a member of the Mountain State Wheelers bicycle club.
Strawn said local residents could enjoy biking, walking and other activities along the bridge.
"It will be great for recreation use," Strawn said. "It could benefit senior citizens or kids getting home from school."
So far, $1.4 million has been pledged to the project.
The funds include $800,000 in federal money, earmarked in 2004 by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Only $100,000 of the pledged funds has been spent so far for designing and engineering studies, Strawn said.
"We have been keeping the budget relatively steady," Strawn said.
The 4,250-foot-long train trestle pegged for the trail project was built in 1907 to haul chemicals, lumber and coal through the area.
With the project, the railroad bridge would have its rails eliminated and concrete laid down to flatten out the bottom. Lights and safety rails would be added to make it comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Mayor Danny Jones said he's hopeful Congress will appropriate the money.
Jones said the new bridge could be a great asset for citizens and visitors in the city.
"To connect the rail trail and involve that trestle is vital to this project," Jones said. "It's important to our city."
The $2 million appropriation still must be approved by the full Senate and the House before the project would see the money.
"It could be two months or it could be six months," Strawn said.
July 26th, 2008, 04:37 AM
Local architectural firm outraged by track executive's comments (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200807210172)
By George Hohmann, Charleston Daily Mail, July 21, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The vice president of a local architectural firm said his company is outraged by the comments of a top executive at Tri-State Racetrack.
Rod Watkins, vice president of ZMM Architects & Engineers of Charleston, took sharp exception to comments made by Dan Adkins of Harman & Tyner, the corporate parent of Tri-State.
Early this year Tri-State severed ties with ZMM, which had done preliminary work on the racetrack's planned $250-million-plus expansion. At the time, Adkins said he needed somebody he could work closely with and that he felt more comfortable with a Florida architect.
But on Friday Adkins said of ZMM, "They had dollar signs in their eyes and weren't being realistic when it came to fees for the work. They looked at us like we're a cash cow."
Watkins said, "We're outraged by his comments. They are absolutely ridiculous. ZMM's got a great reputation in this state. We've been here since 1959. Our fees are very competitive in this market. We really resent this statement from Mr. Adkins that our fees are too high.
"We made a proposal to him on May 1 to design a 150-room hotel and quoted a fee -- a very competitive fee, I might add -- and made certain stipulations Mr. Adkins would have to meet in order for us to properly execute our work," Watkins said. "Since we made that proposal on May 1, we have not spoken or heard one word from Mr. Adkins. Not a phone call, not an e-mail, not a request to negotiate, not a request to clarify anything. Nothing.
"This is just absurd, to say that we were sitting here thinking they are a cash cow. He certainly didn't feel that way when he retained us to do the promotional preliminary work, the conceptual plans," Watkins said. "He never made a comment then that we were excessive or too high. In fact he was very complimentary about all of those services.
"This type of thing coming from him is hurtful to our firm and our people," Watkins said. "We pride ourselves on treating our people very well and our fees are very competitive and this kind of stuff in the paper is ridiculous. Frankly we are a little disappointed the paper printed this without a comment from us."
In February Watkins said ZMM had not received any official word from Tri-State but "we had not been instructed to proceed" with project plans. "I think it's sort of a shame you find out you don't have a client via the newspaper," Watkins said at the time. "We've asked the guy over and over what's going on, what can we do. We've said there's a lot we need to be doing to get this done on schedule." Watkins has said that ZMM had to lay off four employees in February because it had ceased work on the project.
The Tri-State job would have generated two years of work for 10 to 15 people and about $6 million in revenue for ZMM, Watkins has said. The money would have turned over six to eight times in the community, resulting in a significant impact on the local economy, he noted.
In a special election last August, Kanawha County voters approved table games at Tri-State by a 339-vote margin, 23,196 to 22,857.
Watkins said in February that he figured each of ZMM's 35 employees knew the importance of the Tri-State job to the firm. "They talked to their spouses, families, neighbors," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we generated 350 votes for table games right out of this office -- which is the margin of passage."
Last week Gov. Joe Manchin said Tri-State officials owed the public an explanation about the status of its expansion project, which was to include a 250-room hotel, conference center and entertainment complex in Nitro.
"Everyone was so in need of that and pursued it so heavily," Manchin said Wednesday. "I don't know why it's taken so long to develop.
"I understand they are moving forward and I wish them well if that's the direction they're going. But they ought to be upfront and truthful in making sure the timelines are met. If there are challenges or bumps in the road, they ought to be upfront and tell us what that is. It's so intertwined with public policy, the people have the right to know."
Adkins said Friday that the racetrack had to rely on the Florida architectural firm to get table games up and running in Nitro. He said he hoped poker would be available at Tri-State as early as mid-August.
Tri-State's immediate goals are to offer poker, followed shortly by other table games including blackjack, craps and roulette, Adkins said. The company will then shift its focus to expansion of the site, he said.
The racetrack has not yet hired a general contractor, Adkins said Friday. He said West Virginia firms would be hired, just as the company promised during its campaign to gain voter approval of table games.
"The architectural firm that does work at Tri-State will be a West Virginia firm, period," Adkins said Friday. "All of the labor that goes into that will be union labor, period. I don't want anybody to mistake this."
Adkins said the Florida architectural firm, ARC Avenue Inc., is only helping with the racetrack's expansion at its existing facility. Adkins said he and ARC Avenue will later determine which West Virginia company to use.
Adkins said on Friday that Tri-State ran the table games campaign and "the media expected it to appear the next day. I don't think we've had a fair shake."
He said Tri-State has already invested at least $15 million at Nitro, including a $3 million surveillance system upgrade, the construction of two poker areas and the relocation of the simulcasting room.
The sluggish economy has negatively affected progress at Tri-State, Adkins said. He noted that many gambling company stocks are trading at half or less of their 52-week highs.
Voters in Hancock and Ohio counties also approved table games last summer. Both Mountaineer Racetrack in Chester and Wheeling Island began offering the games last fall.
The delays at Tri-State and some key management changes have fueled rumors that the racetrack is for sale. Adkins acknowledged a few months ago that offers had been made but said they were not accepted.
July 26th, 2008, 04:38 AM
City fights to keep population (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200807190368)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, July 20, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you look at a graph of Charleston's declining population and extend the line out, it's clear that unless something unexpected happens - a spike in homebuilding, maybe a baby boom - the line will soon dip below 50,000.
Mayor Danny Jones wants to make sure that doesn't happen, especially with the 2010 Census around the corner. Once Census takers finish their door-to-door count, their tally is locked in for the next 10 years.
"If we go below 50,000, it's an issue," Jones said. "I haven't conceded that yet." He says he's already talked to Census officials to make sure they count every last resident.
Aside from that, Charleston might add population by expanding its boundaries - either through some sort of combined city-county government or by annexing nearby neighborhoods.
City-county (metro) government seems like a long shot, though county officials continue to promote the concept. So the Sunday Gazette-Mail asked Jones about annexation.
"That's the last thing I want to do right now," he said. But his reason might surprise you.
"My fight is at the state Capitol. It's something Lisa [Dooley, director of the West Virginia Municipal League] and I are working on full time. I don't want to escalate the climate of fear. It's the county commissions and the BIC [Business and Industry Council] people."
Both groups have been urging the Legislature to make it harder for cities to annex property, Jones said. The county effort has been led by Jefferson County, which is trying to keep rapidly expanding Ranson from getting even bigger, he said.
"If you stop the spreading that Ranson is doing, you're stopping us," Jones said.
Even so, Charleston leaders wouldn't oppose any "friendly" annexation bids, where an outlying neighborhood asks to join the city. In fact, one such effort has already started.
Some residents along Terry Road, near Southridge Center, have asked city Planning Director Dan Vriendt about possible annexation, but no formal steps have been taken.
State law gives cities three options for annexing property, Vriendt said: Annexation with or without election, and by minor boundary adjustment. Of the three, the first is rare.
"I've never done annexation by election, but the city's done it in the past," Vriendt said. "North Charleston may have done it."
First, at least 5 percent of a city's residents must sign a petition asking to annex a certain area. Then, a majority of voters in both the city and the area to be annexed have to approve it.
By contrast, the other two methods are much easier. (See infobox on this page).
Charleston has used the latter two methods to annex about two dozen subdivisions and other sites in the last 20 or so years - Hunters Ridge, Brookstone, Oakvale Road, Whispering Woods and Mount Alpha, parts of Sherwood Forest, Presidential Estates, Daniel Boone Park, Meadowbrook (Capital High) and the Charleston landfill. And don't forget sections of Southridge Centre and the Dudley Farms property, now some of the richest commercial land in the city.
"The last two annexations we did were Gettysburg, on Corridor G, and The Woodlands," a subdivision along Clark Road, Vriendt said. In both cases, "We were dealing with the developer. Once properties are sold, it gets much harder."
But even with all these additions, Charleston's population has continued to decline. The Sunday Gazette-Mail looked at other areas adjacent to the city, and analyzed 2000 Census data, with an eye toward guessing where the city might look next if wants to grow again.
On the west, the city bumps into two other municipalities - South Charleston and Dunbar. But there appear to be areas in all other directions that could be annexed if the conditions were right.
Using 2000 Census boundaries, the Gazette-Mail identified a dozen "neighborhoods," gave them arbitrary names based on nearby roads, geography or existing place names, and used Census data to figure out how much each neighborhood could add to the city's population. The results are seen in the map/graphic above.
In all, the Gazette-Mail found almost 7,000 people living in more than 3,000 housing units just outside city limits. These figures are certain to be inaccurate now, as they're at least eight years old. But they give some idea of the possibilities.
For example, about 500 people live in an area to the northwest, generally out Woodward Drive. A section along Greenbrier Street near Capital High School has about 250 people. Malden could boost the city population by about 725, the greater Loudendale area could add 550 while another 330 folks live along Davis Creek.
When the city extended an "umbilical cord" up Mount Alpha Road a dozen years ago to annex homes in the Whispering Woods and Mount Alpha subdivisions, people who lived beside the road chose to stay outside the city. They could provide a population boost of 100 or more if they've had a change of heart now.
The biggest plum is the area up U.S. 119 that includes the residential neighborhoods of Knollwood and those off Dutch Road - more than 1,800 people.
"If I could annex anywhere it would be Knollwood," Jones said. Beyond that, the prospects taper off quickly in Jones' eyes.
Woodward Drive? Loudendale? Davis Creek? Johnson Road? All lack city-grade infrastructure, he said. "We're not going to go backwards for the sake of population. There are some areas you want to be very careful in taking in because of sewers, or lack thereof."
Mount Alpha? "We can't make them."
That may be the key issue. State Sen. Brooks McCabe, a strong advocate of city growth by any method, says annexation must be approached with care.
"You can do friendly annexation, where everyone wants to do it. But to get into a fight with someone makes no sense.
"Size certainly makes a difference in competing for securing dollars," he said. "So size does matter. The perception of dropping below 50,000 is important." Also, under state law 50,000 is the lower limit for a Class 1 city.
A larger population would help marketing efforts, McCabe said. "We don't position ourselves well at how we look at the national level. We don't look as strong as we really are, because of how the data looks on the Census. So part of where the mayor is coming from is it is important to stay above 50,000."
Historically, those who live in areas outside Charleston - Cross Lanes in particular - have fought annexation efforts, preferring to stay rural.
"I think you could say that about Elkview and Sissonville, too," McCabe said. "They like it that way. These areas have improved over the years and they have become nice residential areas."
Yet there would be benefits, he said. "You can provide refuse collection, better roads, sanitary sewer, police and fire. These are services people gravitate toward. These are things people look at and say 'My fire insurance will go down if I'm in a city.'"
Annexation, if it happens, will need cost-benefit analyses from both sides, McCabe said.
"I don't see a land grab out there. I see a serious negotiation with landowners. I think the city will quietly approach communities.
"The worst thing is not to change. We have to move forward."
July 26th, 2008, 04:38 AM
Federal funds could bring rail-trail project to life (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200807210138)
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, July 24, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A long awaited West Side walking and biking trail may finally come to fruition, if Congress grants $2 million for the project.
Earlier this month, the Senate Appropriations Committee, led by Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., passed legislation that includes nearly $10 million for projects in Charleston and Kanawha County.
It included $2 million for the Kanawha Trestle Rail Trail.
For years, West Side planners have wanted to convert the old CSX Transportation train bridge, which crosses the Kanawha River near Cabell Field on the West Side, into a bicycle route and pedestrian walkway.
It would be part of a proposed six-mile recreation trail leading from the Mound in South Charleston to the Capitol Complex.
Dennis Strawn, a member of the West Side Neighborhood Association, has been the project's coordinator. He said if Congress approves the appropriation, the project could get off the ground.
"The plan has the support and we have the cooperation of the city," Strawn said. "Now we just need the funding."
Strawn has been working on the trestle project for five years. He is a member of the Mountain State Wheelers bicycle club.
Strawn said local residents could enjoy biking, walking and other activities along the bridge.
"It will be great for recreation use," Strawn said. "It could benefit senior citizens or kids getting home from school."
So far, $1.4 million has been pledged to the project.
The funds include $800,000 in federal money, earmarked in 2004 by Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.
Only $100,000 of the pledged funds has been spent so far for designing and engineering studies, Strawn said.
"We have been keeping the budget relatively steady," Strawn said.
The 4,250-foot-long train trestle pegged for the trail project was built in 1907 to haul chemicals, lumber and coal through the area.
With the project, the railroad bridge would have its rails eliminated and concrete laid down to flatten out the bottom. Lights and safety rails would be added to make it comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Mayor Danny Jones said he's hopeful Congress will appropriate the money.
Jones said the new bridge could be a great asset for citizens and visitors in the city.
"To connect the rail trail and involve that trestle is vital to this project," Jones said. "It's important to our city."
The $2 million appropriation still must be approved by the full Senate and the House before the project would see the money.
"It could be two months or it could be six months," Strawn said.
July 26th, 2008, 04:43 AM
^ Several new articles have been posted today.
New I-64 bridge's mammoth balancing act intrigues passersby (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200807240224)
By Jake Stump, Charleston Daily Mail, July 24, 2008
SOUTH CHARLESTON -- Balance and friction.
Those are the two things keeping concrete and steel bars from crashing 60 feet down onto MacCorkle Avenue in South Charleston.
Motorists zipping through the area can't ignore the massive bridge construction towering over the road.
Click here to watch video
A timid passerby might fear the 64-foot-wide, unfinished bridge could collapse on them. After all, it appears nothing is supporting the edge of the project hanging over MacCorkle Avenue.
But there's no reason to hold your breath when driving under the structure, said John Buchanan, project supervisor.
It's a balancing act of mammoth proportions.
According to engineers, the new Interstate 64 bridge connecting South Charleston and Dunbar is being pieced together in a rather unorthodox style.
Workers are pouring concrete in 16-foot sections at a time, meaning one side of the bridge is always slightly off balance. Crews then will move to the other side and pour concrete to balance it out.
That way the structure doesn't tip over, Buchanan said, and the friction of the concrete also helps.
"It's daunting for some to drive under there," said Brent Walker, spokesman for the Division of Highways. "Soon people will just think they're driving under a bridge."
Rebar, or ribbed steel bars inside the concrete, strengthens the structure.
It takes about three hours to pour each segment of concrete, which is pumped through a hose extending from a truck on the ground.
In the end, more than 33,000 yards of concrete will have been used for the new bridge, Buchanan estimates.
Construction began last year and officials are eyeing October 2010 as the finish date.
The 2,975-foot bridge will span the Kanawha River between Dunbar and South Charleston. It will accommodate four lanes of traffic eastbound. The existing four-lane bridge then will be used for westbound traffic only.
The estimated cost of the total project, including design, engineering and utilities, is $196.5 million.
"This is a whole different animal," said Buchanan, who has 32 years of experience with the Division of Highways. "Here, we're building 16 feet of deck at a time."
It's the first time Buchanan has worked on a bridge constructed in this manner. It's also the first time the method has been used by Brayman Construction Corp., of Saxonburg, Pa., which won the contract to build the bridge.
The process is called cantilever construction, and it's a common way to construct pre-stressed concrete spans. Each cantilever is counterbalanced with another cantilever arm projecting in the opposite direction.
Pre-stressed concrete, which is much stronger than regular concrete, will be further strengthened with rebar and steel tendons, Buchanan said.
The new bridge will include eight spans, including a 760-foot main span over the river.
It won't have a support beam under its center or in the river. Piers on each end of the structure will support the new bridge.
Officials say the bridge will include the longest continuous segmental span in the United States.
Crews are working 10-hour days for five and sometimes six days a week. Brayman has about 65 workers on site. Subcontractors also are working on the bridge.
Buchanan said crews are making progress as expected, but the winter months could slow them down.
"January and February might be bad months," he said. "You need to keep concrete at above 50 degrees. When it gets below 20, it's hard for these guys to work."
The state settled on concrete for the new bridge because it is less expensive than steel. The concrete is costing $83 million, or about $30 million less than steel, Buchanan said.
People can monitor progress of the bridge construction online by going to www.wvdot.com, clicking on "Highway Projects" and selecting the proper link.
Three cameras, one at each end of the project and one near the middle of the existing bridge, give updated images every five to 15 minutes.
August 6th, 2008, 01:53 AM
Bike plan open to public comment (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200807250652)
By Kellen Henry, Charleston Gazette, July 26, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Bikers and walkers in Kanawha and Putnam counties can now comment on a plan that could show their communities how to keep them safer in transit.
The Regional Intergovernmental Council has posted a draft of its Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan online, where the public can view recommendations and comment until July 31.
The plan is based on a study performed by consultant Michael Baker Jr. Inc. to evaluate pedestrian and bike access and mobility in the two counties. It indicated numerous areas where roads and sidewalks could be altered or corridors built to better suit alternative transportation.
The study's first phase identified existing facilitates in areas with high pedestrian and bicycle activity. The second phase examined deficiencies and potential areas for improvement, as the council asked for feedback in several meetings with community leaders and the public.
"We hope that this study will encourage more bicycle and pedestrian use. We hope it encourages the communities to take a bigger interest," said Chris Callahan, planning director. "We also wanted to promote and encourage safety measures."
The RIC, which is a developmental agency funded by local governments, will not implement the plan, but its study should help cities identify and fix pedestrian and bicycle transportation issues.
"What we think the plan will do is identify specific areas and projects and that could be used as a basis for applying for funds or proposing projects to be done," Callahan said. "We've found you have a much better chance of getting funded for a project if you have a plan."
In Kanawha County, 303 documented bicycle and pedestrian crashes occurred between 2003 and 2006. The study found that the highest incidence of both were within Charleston and its immediate vicinity.
"A lot of incidents happen around population centers, but now we want to hear from places like Pinch, Elkview and Clendenin. We don't know how to reach them," said Dennis Strawn, a board member for RIC who has been involved on the study's committee.
U.S. 60 and Washington Street had the highest incidence of bicycle accidents, followed by the St. Albans area. Fifty-eight percent of pedestrian crashes in the county occurred in Charleston, with U.S. 60 and Kanawha Boulevard, Washington Street, Lee Street and Patrick Street as the highest problem roadways.
The study found 23 deficient areas for bicycles and pedestrians in Kanawha County, where sidewalks, crosswalks and bicycle lanes are needed.
In Putnam County, 34 crashes occurred within the same time period, according to the study. Ten of these involved bicycles, with Nitro, Hurricane and the Teays Valley/Scott Depot areas each having multiple incidents. The most pedestrian crashes occurred in Teays Valley/Scott Depot, followed by Hurricane.
Fifteen areas for improvement were identified in Putnam County. The study's recommendations include street-by-street explanations of problem areas, with photos. It also includes suggestions for encouraging non-vehicular transportation.
To view the report, click on the Plans tab under the Transportation menu at www.wvregion3.org. Comments on the bicycle and pedestrian plan will be evaluated and considered for inclusion in the report.
"We just urge people to comment on it," Strawn said. "For so many years, cars ruled the roads. There's nothing wrong with that, except if you're having to dodge cars because there aren't enough crosswalks."
August 8th, 2008, 11:28 PM
New Kanawha library to use green tech (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200808071400)
By Davin White, Charleston Daily Mail, August 8, 2008
Architects expect the new Kanawha County Public Library to feature rows of large windows that line its façade, along with plenty of space outside to walk and park. As library visitors know, a new facility between Lee and Quarrier streets would be in stark contrast to the cramped confines of the old federal building on Capitol Street.
The architects, however, have not-so-obvious intentions that lie in the sheer volume of windows and the pervious concrete they plan to lay in the parking lot.
Pervious concrete acts like a sponge. It soaks up water, sends it back into the dry bed below and prevents runoff. The windows will allow natural light to shine into offices, work rooms, reading rooms and public areas. That helps cut back on electricity costs.
Those are two of several green, or sustainable, features planned for the new library, according to ZMM architects Steve Branner and Brian Estep.
They've also planned a light-reflecting roof, non-potable water usage for toilets and irrigation, high-efficiency boilers and chillers and an overall energy-efficient, well-insulated building.
Computers will monitor the building's energy management, and architects expect the library to feature low-energy lamps and sensors that dim lights when there is enough daylight in a room.
Occupancy sensors - also found in the new Lincoln County High School - can automatically turn off the lights or reduce heating or cooling levels when someone leaves a room.
Branner also talked about water-saving plumbing fixtures such as low-flush valves or sensors on sinks that prevent unnecessary water use.
"This building is not going to use a lot of water in the grand scheme of things," Branner said, as patrons and staff will use only toilets, sinks and water fountains.
Branner said the use of rapidly renewable resources is also essential to green concepts.
"Bamboo is a fantastic example of that," Estep said. "That's probably one of the best if not the best example of that." Bamboo grows to maturity in about four years, he said.
Estep said bamboo is not a definite for the library just yet, as architects are still in the early stages of design. Alan Engelbert, the library's director, said library officials need to secure more public funding before construction bids go out.
"I would think there's definitely some applications where we could use [bamboo]," Estep said. "It looks good, it's durable."
Branner said features that conserve energy usually cost more from the outset.
"In many cases, the payback isn't that great," he said. It might take 20 years or more to recoup the expenses spent on sustainable features, he said.
He said from an environment-friendly standpoint, however, the effort has merit. Branner said the new library might serve as a demonstration project for others in the community.
"Here are the kinds of things that you can do," he said.
Branner expects the building will be up to "silver" standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council, a nonprofit organization that certifies environment-friendly facilities. The council assigns silver, gold and platinum rankings to buildings that meet its specifications.
Still, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification costs money to pursue, which the library board of directors might want to spend on books or other resources, Branner said.
He said the library is constantly evolving, and architectural designs might be tweaked before an official groundbreaking.
"There may be other technology that comes up between now and when the library's built and we will be assessing that continuously," Engelbert said.
August 8th, 2008, 11:30 PM
City, county officials still hope for new hotel (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200808070343)
Redeveloping health department site would yield jobs, tax revenue
By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, August 7, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper wants the public to know he hasn't forgot about obtaining the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department property for a new hotel.
Carper said he wants the issue back on the front burner.
"Everyone has sat down on this issue," Carper said. "Nothing has been done in six weeks."
At a commission meeting scheduled for this evening, Carper plans to develop a timeframe to move the department and use the land for economic development.
The county owns the property at 108 Lee St.
Carper, along with Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, have been pushing for the health department to move into the Appalachian Power Park building at 601 Morris St.
The Lee Street location, which is near the Charleston Civic Center, then could be used for a new upscale hotel.
Supporters of the plan have said a new hotel would provide new jobs and tax revenue.
"The sole purpose of this project is economic development," Carper said. "I want to get it back on track."
Jones said development of that property is of utmost importance.
"We need it," Jones said. "We need it very bad."
Jones said the city's lack of hotel and convention space downtown almost caused it to lose a convention last month. The four-day meeting of the National Association of Free Will Baptists brought more than 6,000 visitors to the area.
But reviews from the convention's planners noted the absence of hotel space downtown.
Jones said selling the property is key to the city's tourism future.
"It's not only a priority," Jones said. "From our perspective, its imperative."
Plans for a hotel were in place earlier this year.
But the idea drew dissension, especially between Jones and former health board president Stephen Artz.
A hotel proposal was scrapped in April after developers Angela and Kelsey Harding announced they no longer wanted to go forward with the plans
The couple said it was taking the health department too long to find new quarters. The Hardings own and operate Harding's Restaurant in Mink Shoals and Sleep Inn in Mink Shoals and Cross Lanes.
In March, Jones said Artz opposed the department's move and was hindering the process.
Since then, both Artz and former Health Department Executive Director Kerry Gateley have left.
In May, Jones replaced Artz with City Councilman Bobby Reishman.
Then in June, Gateley resigned and was replaced on an interim basis by his wife, Dr. Laura Gateley.
Jones said he believes the changes will advance the development plans.
"If that doesn't do it, then nothing will," Jones said.
Brenda Isaac, who now is president of the Health Department board, said the board would work with city and county officials.
"We are of course willing to cooperate with the commission and the city to do the whatever is in the best interest of all parties concerned," Isaac said.
"Obviously if they don't sell the property, we're happy to stay here," Isaac said. "But we're also perfectly willing to move."
City Manager David Molgaard said the original deal for the move, pitched earlier this year, is still in play.
The deal calls for the health department to pay the city $3 million up front to move into the city-owned building at the ballpark.
Molgaard said it would take six to nine months of construction before the health department could move in.
The health department then would pay the city about $85,000 a year under the terms of a long-term lease.
The city would assume all utility and maintenance costs, Molgaard said.
"That deal is viable and it's still on the table," Molgaard said.
Carper said the county must first find a suitable party interested in buying the Lee Street property.
"We've got to determine if there's an interest in purchasing it," Carper said. "Then we can set forth and get the forces together to make it happen."
Carper said the commission would work closely with the city to get the ball rolling.
"The mayor and I started this as a joint project, and I intend to finish this as a joint project," Carper said.
August 8th, 2008, 11:36 PM
Cleaning crews find cracks in Capitol walls (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200808040228)
Restoration will include cleaning limestone, windows
By Kelly Holleran, Charleston Daily Mail, August 4, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State officials knew they had a massive cleaning job on their hands.
What they didn't realize about the limestone exterior of the main Capitol Building was that repairs were needed as well.
"It's been more of a restoration project," said Diane Holley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration.
An architecture and engineering firm discovered cracks and open joints in the limestone that were causing water damage inside the building.
Holley said weather caused much of the damage to the structure, which was completed in 1932.
It turned out to be a $3.2 million job, just one of many in a broad, five-year plan to restore and update the Capitol Complex.
Crews from Graciano Corp. of Pittsburgh in April began to repair and clean the main Capitol building's exterior, including ornamental features, windows and doorways.
The building, which had not been cleaned since the 1970s, was badly in need of a facelift, said Scott Lepi, a worker for Lepi Enterprises, another company involved in the project.
"It's long overdue," he said.
Windows had not been updated since the Capitol was built, Holley said.
"One of the things this administration has done is to take care of what we already have," Holley said.
A crew of about 25 workers has been working 10 hours a day, four days a week, said Nathan Stonebreaker, project foreman.
Holley estimates 40 percent of the building is done.
Crews are replacing panes of glass and refinishing the brass surrounding windows and doors, Holley said.
To clean the limestone blocks, workers are using a recycled glass micro-abrasive process, Holley said. A machine propels a fine stream of recycled glass at the stone to clean off dirt and grime.
The mortar between the blocks also is being repaired, Holley said.
There is a noticeable difference between areas that have been cleaned and those that have not. The restored sections are bright white.
"Looking at some of them before they do the work and after they do the work, it's unreal," Holley said.
Perhaps the most noticeable difference is the restoration process, she said.
"In watching this project progress, that's what I've noticed most," Holley said. "It's amazing looking at some areas they haven't finished yet."
It's not unusual for a seemingly simple project to grow into a larger job, Holley said.
"We know that when there's a need to focus on a building, we usually find there is more work than we anticipate," she said.
The work on the main Capitol building will be finished in December or January, Holley said.
Bids will be sought for the East and West wings later this year, and that work should start sometime next year.
Money for many of the projects is coming from the Capitol Improvement Fund, which is fed by video lottery funds.
The five-year plan for the Capitol Complex began in March 2007. Nearly 80 percent of the projects are complete or under way, and about $31 million has been spent, Holley said.
August 15th, 2008, 04:13 AM
$500,000 metro effort sought (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200808111076)
By Rusty Marks, Charleston Gazette, August 12, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper is proposing a $500,000 program to sell local residents on metro government.
Last week, Carper sent a letter to Charleston Area Alliance President Matt Ballard offering the Alliance $100,000 in county funding if the Alliance or the Charleston Chamber of Commerce agree to come up with another $100,000. Carper also asked Ballard to come up with an additional $300,000, all to be used to promote the idea of metro government.
"The total of at least $500,000 would then by used by the Charleston Area Alliance and/or Chamber of Commerce to perform an independent study on Metro Government in Kanawha County and facilitate an action/marketing plan for the subsequent implementation of Metro Government in Kanawha County," the letter says.
"When I talk to folks in the business community, they tell me metro government isn't just a good thing to do, it's critical," Carper said Monday. "I know of no other way to accomplish this, other than to begin."
Carper said part of the county money could fund legal research, pay for a countywide referendum on metro government or help pay for studies of how metro government might work. But Carper also believes a massive public relations campaign would be required to sell voters on the idea of metro government.
"If there's going to be an information campaign, that should not come from public funds," Carper said.
In a metro government, individual town governments are part of a larger regional government. Proponents of metro government say smaller communities can pool their resources to pay for services and equipment they couldn't afford on their own, but critics fear metro government robs communities of autonomy.
Ballard said the Charleston Area Alliance helped push for legislation to allow metro governments in West Virginia.
"It's extremely important for economic development," Ballard said Monday. He said Alliance members will talk about Carper's proposal at their next board meeting on Aug. 25.
On Sept. 4, a group of local mayors and county officials are taking an overnight trip to Louisville, Ky., to study how metro government works in practice. Ballard said he and two other Alliance members are going on the trip.
"Metro government has historically been a very important issue for the Alliance," he said.
August 18th, 2008, 03:11 AM
CAMC estimates $1 billion in improvements needed (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Business/200808140225)
Hospital hired planning firm to identify critical upgrades, community needs
By George Hohmann, Charleston Daily Mail, August 14, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston Area Medical Center has identified more than $1 billion in capital improvements it says are needed over the next 20-plus years.
Dale Wood, vice president of system improvement, said the organization's first choice is to combine its three hospitals onto one campus. "But the cost of that and the land to do it don't exist," he said.
So CAMC, which is one of the state's largest medical centers with almost 6,000 employees, has mapped out improvements it deems critical to maintain General Hospital, its downtown campus; Memorial Hospital, which is in Kanawha City; and Women and Children's Hospital, near the West Side.
It did so by hiring RTKL, an architectural, engineering and planning firm, to develop a strategic facilities master plan - the first done in anyone's memory. "We wanted to make sure we understood the community's needs and what the likelihood of growth of particular needs would be based on changing demographics, and tie them to the facilities," Wood said.
Listen to Wood and you'll hear talk about an institution that is starved for money and under stress.
"We have very limited resources," he said, pointing out that West Virginia is one of only a few states that control hospital rates. CAMC must get prior approval from the state's Health Care Authority for any improvements that cost more than $2 million.
Also, "the more Medicare, Medicaid, state and self-pay patients you have, the less funds you'll have to invest in equipment, facilities and salaries," he said. "All those things put a real stress on the organization, in terms of meeting the finances needed to meet demands."
And then there are the buildings. They were erected when it seemed OK to have semi-private rooms and to share bathrooms. "Now the public is saying they want better private facilities," Wood said. Operating rooms - once rather simple - are now crammed with machines and are much too small.
Also, the volume of patients continues to increase. "Everybody wants to come to CAMC," Wood said. "We run at capacity. We had to turn away hundreds of people from CAMC last year because we didn't have a room to put them in.
"Realize that some of our facilities were built in the 1930s," he said. "At that time, the lifespan for buildings of this nature were expected to be 50 years. The old bar joist construction in some of our buildings no longer meets the building code.
"So these are old buildings and we have limited resources in a community that's aging much faster than the rest of the country, and we're in a state and community with higher health needs. West Virginia is in the top two or three poor health categories in the country. All of this puts a lot of pressure on us to make the best decisions for the long term. That's why we did a master plan.
"We want to make sure the decisions made in the short term don't prevent the organization from doing what's right in the long term."
Given the various restraints, "we realized that what we needed to do was to really focus on our core competencies in the short term - to get the things right that we do best," Wood said. "We're the 7th largest in the country for heart and cardiovascular. So we need to provide the best possible care."
The new $72 million CAMC Heart & Vascular Center and Robert C. Byrd Clinical Teaching Center on the Memorial Hospital campus was originally designed as an office building. But "it became clear we needed to increase our capacity at Memorial and separate the flow of patients from the public," Wood said. So the design was modified to emphasize increasing the capacity to take care of patients.
"We realized that with this new building we could give the heart program, our catheterization labs, the electrophysiology labs for things like pacemakers - we could put those in the new building."
In the old facilities, "we didn't have the ability to provide privacy," Wood said. "You find patients with families and staff on the elevators and in the hallways."
In the new building, patients have their own entrance and all of the pre-admitting testing is done at the heart center on the first floor. "Patients have their own set of elevators and go up to private rooms," Wood said. "A lot of family members come to the hospital so these rooms have space for families to wait in. When patients are ready to leave they'll go down a private elevator and are dropped off within 15 feet of the front door. We've streamlined the whole flow process. That was one of the needs at Memorial and we're extremely proud of it."
No major work had been done to Memorial's facilities for a long time. "Construction of the new building "was the best opportunity this organization has had in 10 to 20 years" to make major changes, he said. Some clinics and some of West Virginia University's teaching facilities were moved to the new building. The moves made it possible to renovate portions of Memorial's Emergency Department.
Wood said CAMC is re-branding Memorial as a heart and vascular center. That's the dominant message on the new signs and those signs can be seen from the Interstate.
CAMC executives believe the system's cancer care will double in the next five years. "We have got to build the comprehensive cancer center the people and the state deserve," Wood said. "It needs to be a center than pulls all of the disciplines together - oncologists, radiologists, surgeons, imaging work, social support and even things like a wig shop.
"We've added three oncologists in the four years I've been here and we've doubled the size of the medical staff," he said. "So in the next 10 years we want to build a comprehensive cancer center on the former Watt Powell Park site. It all depends on funding but it's a high priority. We're starting to talk to the community about this now. We know from focus groups that people want a more holistic approach to cancer care."
In addition, "The whole community looks to us for trauma care," Wood said. "We're one of only two level-one trauma centers in the state." A shortage of critical care beds keeps General from taking more patients. "By the end of this year we will have added 24 critical care beds," he said. "That's a big investment. It means a lot for the community and for southern West Virginia. Also this year we've added an operating room and, as part of that renovation, we added a new air-handling unit."
Because traumas often involve neurological and orthopedic needs, those specialties need to be clustered with trauma care, he said.
"In the long run we think we'll need to develop more ambulatory care - more surgeries on an outpatient basis" at General, Wood said. "We will have to go through the state Certificate of Need process to do it. We also need a specialty medical office building" so neurological and orthopedic specialists can more easily work together.
At Women & Children's Hospital, "our biggest demand by far is to get private rooms for mothers and babies and private restrooms," Wood said. "We've gone to the bond market to get funds to allow us to build private labor and delivery rooms. The cost also involves making sure we have a breast center, a womens medical center, a pediatrics center, an adult intensive care unit and maybe some parking. I think all of that will be completed within three years. It will cost about $7 million.
"Within the next 10 years we'd like to move to private rooms for pediatric beds, we'd like to do some work with the neonatal intensive care unit, and we'd like to expand some room for the clinics. That'll require a new parking garage because there is no more parking space. The parking garage is the single most expensive thing that will occur on that campus, if it happens within the next 10 years."
Women & Children's has two old heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems. Both could fail at any moment and both need to be replaced, Wood said. The cost of replacing one is estimated at $1.5 million to $1.75 million; the other will cost less.
Throughout CAMC's system, it has been estimated that $20 million in infrastructure improvements are needed "just to support our current operations," Wood said.
August 25th, 2008, 02:58 AM
South Charleston eyes park, dock under I-64 bridges (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200808200459)
By Charlotte Ferrell Smith, Charleston Daily Mail, August 20, 2008
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston officials are discussing the possibility of creating a riverfront park on land beneath the new Interstate 64 bridge.
Bob Anderson, executive director for the South Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, said he has already sent a letter to the state Department of Transportation inquiring about leasing land beneath the bridge for the endeavor.
"The mayor (Frank Mullens) authorized the letter," Anderson said. "I requested that we lease the property when it is available after the new bridge is built. The bridge is to be completed in 2010. They will consider leasing it to the city of South Charleston."
The state Department of Transportation sent a letter to Anderson saying once the bridge is complete that the DOH would be happy to consider leasing the property to the city of South Charleston.
Anderson said such a lease would cost the city $1 a year, would bring a lot of business to the area and would round out the city's recreational facilities. He suggested acquiring grants to pursue building the park as well as a new boat ramp with better river access.
Mayor Frank Mullens emphasized it could be some time before a riverfront park could "be put on the radar screen."
"It is not a done deal," Mullens said.
He said officials are now more focused on talks with THF Realty Co. regarding a new upscale shopping center to be placed on 48 acres on the site of an old industrial pond in the city.
"If it (a riverfront park) becomes reality, that would be great," Mullens said. "It's so far down the road, it's not something I'm looking at right now."
Mullins said he is not interested in acquiring any more debt, and added grants sometimes come with stipulations.
"The cost would depend on all the bells and whistles," he said. "You have to be careful with grant money. It comes with restrictions."
The city's current boat ramp was built in 1976 with government grant money, Anderson said.
"I was recreation director," he said. "The Corps of Engineers wanted it there. Sand piles up. We dredge and it comes back."
Mullens said, "It's on the wrong side of Davis Creek. If it were on the other side, you wouldn't have this."
Officials said while park visitors could hear noise from the interstate above, the city would still be better off.
"You'd have to live with it," Anderson said. "We'd be tickled to live with it."
August 26th, 2008, 02:23 AM
Heart and soul: A walking tour explores churches in the center city (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200808220647)
By Bob Schwarz, Charleston Gazette, August 23, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In an enormous burst of civic pride and energy after the fire of 1194, the people of Chartres, France, rebuilt their cathedral, which still stands today and is often considered the finest ever built.
West Virginians too have often poured their best efforts into building beautiful houses of worship to last the ages.
As I close out a 21-year career here, much of it spent covering the performing arts, visual arts and religion, I wanted to take one more look at the downtown's houses of worship. I chose half a dozen of these civic treasures clustered within a few blocks, and photographer Lawrence Pierce and I went on a walking tour that started at Kanawha Presbyterian, and took us to First Presbyterian, Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral, St. John's Episcopal, Christ Church United Methodist and the Baptist Temple.
I've attended worship services and concerts in all six. They are awesome buildings. Think of the money, effort and talent it took to build them. Think of the faith that formed the underpinnings.
It pains me to leave out other houses of worship close by: St. Mark's Methodist and St. Paul's Lutheran, both stately buildings in the old style; Simpson Memorial Methodist and First Baptist, treasures to the African-American community; St. George Cathedral, the Eastern Rite church across from Charleston Town Center; Bream Memorial Presbyterian, the equal of any building in this town; Trinity Lutheran, a thriving congregation on Elizabeth Street; B'nai Jacob Synagogue with its stained glass windows brilliantly designed by a member's son; and east of the Capitol, the elegant contemporary building that houses Temple Israel. They are all treasures.
Kanawha United Presbyterian Church
The Civil War brought a split in the Presbyterian Church, with the majority of the Charleston congregation leaning to the South and staying with what became First Presbyterian Church. The Northern sympathizers, 25 members when they laid the cornerstone in 1873 and 16 members when workers finished the building in 1885, kept the old church name and built a new building. Today, Kanawha Presbyterian has 214 members.
Rev. John Davis, pastor: "There are two early entries in the meetings of the church. One woman was accused of drunkenness and dancing. She owned a tavern. The woman was sufficiently repentive that they allowed her to the Communion table. In those days, Communion was what you withheld."
"Two pages later, a black man named Jim was also accused of drunkenness and not sufficiently repentive, and not allowed back to the Communion table. He was excommunicated. He was someone's servant.
"We're a lot like the denomination today. We cover the spectrum theologically, we cover the spectrum politically, and - more so than five years ago when I came - we cover the spectrum economically. Today we have people who need help and people who can give a great deal of it. Generally, the church is open-minded and wants to have discussion over important issues. We've had people come into the church who might not be welcome in other churches. No matter who walks through, we want them to know they're welcome. That probably wouldn't have been the case in 1873, not without conditions."
First Presbyterian Church
The building, dating from 1915, extends south just beyond the first set of exterior steps on Leon Sullivan Way. The congregation added an attached four-story education building (marked by the second set of exterior steps) in 1932 and then the activities building in 1957. The church has 1,300 members, plus children under confirmation age.
Otis O'Connor, elder and longtime member: "Not many people lived on the hill in those days. This was a downtown church. A lot of those people came."
"We're the same First Presbyterian Church. We're a little bigger now than we were in 1915. But we're not as big as we were in the 1960s.
"In 1915, they didn't have Internet and cell phones. I think the church was more the center of people's lives. I know that was the case when I was growing up."
Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral
Built in 1897, the congregation counted 80 English families and 56 German families in a parish census just five years earlier. Today, the congregation has 1,150 families - 2656 individuals - who are on the rolls and attend church regularly. Another 157 families come now and then but aren't on the church rolls. The majority of members send their children to Catholic school.
Monsignor Edward Sadie: "A lot of them were immigrants, a lot of Germans. You didn't have that Italian wave yet. A good percent of Catholics have always gone to church at least once a week on Sundays. A lot have always prayed every day.
"The church is still a big part of their lives. They took Communion less often than they do now and they went to confession more often. They took Communion less often because they felt unworthy. Today everyone thinks they're worthy."
St. John's Episcopal Church
Completed in 1888, the building gained a connected addition, called the parish house, in 1928. The church has 450 members, plus children under confirmation age.
Becky Burns, senior warden: "What we understand is that in those days, prominent families actually purchased their pews. That was a fundraising mechanism. We certainly don't do that anymore."
Janet Morris, church historian: "We had first families: Quarrier, Shrewsbury, Laidley, Hubbard, Patrick Spicer, Glenwood. In the '60s and '70s, this emerged: starting groups (like Manna Meal, Covenant House, Women's Health Center, Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center) and outreach and a much greater sense of social justice."
Becky Burns: "We've continued and expanded that in the years since. Three things we've valued most were the social outreach, our inclusiveness, and our liturgy and music. And that's one thing [the emphasis on liturgy and music] that hasn't changed."
Christ Church United Methodist
Completed in 1911, most of the building was lost in the 1969 fire. The bell tower survived, as did the chapel added in 1954. The congregation rebuilt around those parts, and the new building with its contemporary-designed sanctuary opened in 1973. The congregation has 1200 members of confirmation age - grades six or seven - and older.
David Donathan, longtime music minister: "When I look over old bulletins, the focus is the same. Worship focuses on the spoken word, preached. Catholic and Episcopalian churches and some Lutheran churches are focused on the sacraments. They have Communion every Sunday. That's an element Methodist churches are considering. But that would change us from word-driven to sacramental. We're considering incorporating that into one service.
"After the fire, they decided to stay here, rebuild at this location, and embark on a mission of outreach to the community and build a facility that would allow that to happen. And I think that's why they rebuilt in a contemporary style."
The current building, the church's third, was built in 1925. The congregation today has 600 members.
The Rev. Dennis Johnson, senior pastor: "The sanctuary seats 1,000. I'm sure they filled it when they built it in 1925. Ernest Flagg was the architect from New York City. There is a spiritual design to the whole structure. At the center of the building is the sanctuary. Everything else that happens is around the sanctuary, which was his way of saying worship is the heart of the church.
"Many folks see it as nothing more than a concert hall. They want to sing here because it has the best acoustics. But to us, it is a sanctuary, a house of worship. It has good acoustics to glorify God. If you're going to build a sanctuary, build it well.
"I'm sure it was a very quaint, quiet, predominantly residential neighborhood. Clarence Kemper was the pastor. He spoke a lot about economic justice issues, fair wages. The ethos of that congregation wasn't different than the ethos today. How we carry that out is different.
"The neighborhood helps define who we are today. There's much more social involvement by the congregation. As the neighborhood has changed, the ministry of the church has changed with it."
Bob Schwarz retired from The Charleston Gazette on Aug. 15.
August 28th, 2008, 02:19 PM
Retirement community to be built in Nitro (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200808230860)
By Kellen Henry, Charleston Gazette, August 24, 2008
See URL for an aerial.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Lyle Sattes is creating a different kind of homestead on the rolling hills in Nitro where several generations of his family worked the land and ferried people across the Kanawha River.
Sattes is building Augusta Hills, a continuing care retirement community offering aging people in Kanawha County a place to stay active and grow old without abandoning their roots.
The Charleston native and former House of Delegates' member manages Augusta Hills LLC, a group of seven cousins who envision a community for people 55 and older with space to grow and adapt to changes in care.
"I think a lot of people leave here because they can't get what they need," Sattes said. "This is a wonderful place to grow up and raise a family, but when it comes to retirement, we don't have the services available that everybody else has."
Though only in planning stages, Augusta Hills will be a large campus residential area with single-family homes, duplexes or apartments that give residents the flexibility to move within the community to assisted living or skilled nursing housing as their needs change, Sattes said.
The community will be built on the 700 acres overlooking the Kanawha River that has been owned by the family since Sattes' great-grandfather began buying land during the Civil War.
Though there are other senior care facilities in the Kanawha Valley, some have waiting lists or no room to expand, Sattes said.
Construction is still several years away, but the developers want to speak to church groups, clubs and individual retirees who are interesting in living in the community to find out exactly what they want for their future.
"We want to do it the way they want it," Sattes said.
People who are interested in reserving a space can make a refundable down payment of $2,000 to Augusta Hills. The money will be held in an escrow account and will not be used for construction, Sattes said.
After developing a base of potential residents, Augusta Hills will begin designing the property and selling bonds to finance the project. They expect to construct the facilities and private houses by 2010.
"We're starting out talking to people. They're not committing to anything and if they change their mind, we'll give their money back," Sattes said.
Empty nesters with kids off to college could downsize by building their own houses on plots owned by the community, while retired snowbird singles might want apartments for the warmer months, Sattes said.
In addition to housing and recreation, the facility hopes to be approved to offer skilled nursing and eventually a dementia unit and hospice care if there is a need.
Though continuing care retirement communities are popular in places such as Florida and their numbers are rising in neighboring states, tax issues and the rural population have kept them from spreading in the Mountain State.
The state has only two or three continuing care retirement facilities, while they number in the hundreds in places like Pennsylvania and Virginia, Sattes said.
However, West Virginia has a large senior population, with people over 65 accounting for more than 15 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
And though the state doesn't have the population concentration for hundreds of these communities, cities such as Charleston and Huntington could support more senior residential areas, Sattes said.
Augusta Hills conducted a feasibility study in 2005, showing that a 5-mile area around the land, in Nitro and St. Albans, could fill about 120 independent living units and 32 assisted care units, with 25,000 square feet of common areas like dining rooms, meeting spaces, and recreation areas. They will do another study to re-evaluate the market as they begin designing the facility.
The developers have visited several similar communities, including the Woodlands Retirement Community in Huntington, to observe how they have retooled the traditional idea of senior living.
Another continuing care retirement community could thrive in Charleston, if it's implemented correctly, said Don Faherty, Woodlands CEO.
"The need in West Virginia is very definite," Faherty said. "We have a waiting list of 400-plus. The majority of the people that live here either came from Huntington or had ties to Huntington."
Faherty said continuing care retirement communities calm uncertainty about the future, relieve a burden from children and save the stress of leaving behind friends, churches and doctors.
"It's important to have that continuation in your life," he said. "It's a whole different concept than the old days with nursing homes."
Though settling into a continuing care retirement community for the long haul may bring peace of mind, the price tag can be an obstacle for seniors, said Gaylene Miller, associate state director of the American Association of Retired Persons.
"They can be quite expensive. Often, there isn't financial assistance or it's not Medicare eligible and most insurance companies don't cover the costs," Miller said.
The AARP encourages people considering any kind of home facility to do research and ask lots of questions. The group has resources about selecting a continuing care retirement community available at www.aarp.org.
Augusta Hills will be a not-for-profit organization, but it will also need to make enough money to sustain itself, pay employees and plan for the future, Sattes said.
Private homes will probably cost between $120,000 and $250,000 to build. Access to a duplex or apartment would initially cost the resident between $65,000 and $120,000. The community would also charge a monthly fee between $1,400 and $1,650 for utilities, maintenance and meals, with a smaller fee for the second person in a unit.
Though it is too early to be specific, Sattes said the family wants Augusta Hills to benefit the region and they are investigating ways to help some people who are not able to pay the full costs or residents who run into unexpected financial trouble, though they may not be able to receive the full range of services.
"It's a real sense of community we're going for. We're going to take care of each other, whatever happens," Sattes said.
September 5th, 2008, 04:57 AM
Jones dispels myths of metro government (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200809020721)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, September 3, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - On an otherwise quiet night for City Council, Mayor Danny Jones spoke out Tuesday night in favor - and to dispel some of the myths - of metro government.
Jones handed out four pages to each council member of what he called "bullet points" that he made two months ago in a meeting with Gazette editors:
# Leadership for a merged city-county government must come from the county, not the city.
# It's an urban legend that a city loses federal block grant funds if its population falls below 50,000.
# The best model for consolidation is that used by Louisville, Ky., and its county.
# For that type of consolidation, four elected positions will lose their jobs - the mayor of Charleston and all three county commissioners.
Under the state's metro government law, a charter committee would spell out all the specific terms for a possible merger of Charleston and Kanawha County, Jones said.
"For instance, what happens to the user fee, and where does the money go? Does it stay in Charleston or does it go out to Sissonville? Do they pay it? I'd say the answer is no."
Asked after the meeting to clarify, Jones said there would be no changes under a merged city-county government. People who don't pay the user fee now would not pay it in a merged government, and fee money would be spent only in current city limits. "All the fees would be status quo."
State law provides two ways to begin the consolidation process, Jones said at an earlier meeting of council's Finance Committee: "A petition drive, which won't happen, or the city and county vote on it, a charter committee draws up a plan and people in both the city and county have to approve it by 55 percent.
"If you want, you can put out a resolution next month and vote on it, and we can send it across the street [to the Kanawha County Commission] and see what they do with it," Jones told council members.
Jones told Finance members that the volunteer firefighters association recently took credit for defeating a bill at the Legislature this year that would have given cities like Charleston some help paying down unfunded police and fire pension liabilities.
"They did not defeat it; the governor defeated it," Jones said. "My reaction to that is, we go out in the county a lot to put out fires. We went to Knollwood. We went to the tire fire in Nitro, in the unincorporated part of Nitro. The city of Charleston, of South Charleston, of Dunbar and Nitro put that out. If the municipalities hadn't put that out, it would still be burning.
"I don't have anything against volunteer fire departments .... But I just mentioned, they're bragging. Maybe we should look at our [mutual aid] agreement. We'll continue to help other municipalities."
September 8th, 2008, 05:22 AM
So, Frank Mullens of South Charleston decided to "stay home" and not be informed on the vast efficiencies of a metro government. What an ignorant fool -- if you don't educate yourself on the sound construction of a metro government that Charleston desperately needs, then you should be voted out of office. 70% my ass.
South Charleston balks at metro proposal (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200809050233)
Mayor Mullens says he believes 70 percent of residents would vote against it
By Luke R. Mitchell, Charleston Daily Mail, September 5, 2008
SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- While several other Kanawha County mayors and officials visited Louisville, Ky., to check out metro government, South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens not only stayed home, but also reiterated his opposition.
South Charleston will not be part of the initiative, he told his council at its Thursday meeting.
He said the city is "willing to be the doughnut hole" on the metro government map.
"I want to make this clear," Mullens said. "There is absolutely no way that metro government is going to better serve our community."
Mullens said city officials would better serve and represent the citizens of South Charleston than the proposed metro government.
Mullens said today that he was invited to go on the Louisville excursion, but he chose not to participate. No representatives from the city went, he said.
"Probably, the main factor is there's just not a whole lot of support for metro government in South Charleston," Mullens said. "Those are the people I work for."
County commissioner Dave Hardy, who was in Louisville with the group today, said eight of the county's 13 municipalities sent their mayors and the trip has been worth their time.
"I'm sorry Mayor Mullens feels that way," Hardy said, "but the majority of the mayors in the county are here, and they think it's been an excellent and productive trip."
Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, one of metro government's biggest supporters, criticized those opposing the concept because they fail to analyze the matter.
"A lot of these mayors I don't expect any more out of," Jones said. "They refuse to investigate. It won't change anything about their services or inner workings. Because the previous mayor (of South Charleston) and this mayor refuse to investigate, maybe we'll keep the status quo."
Jones said municipalities would gain strength in a metro government by having city representatives serve on an executive board.
He said the push for metro government must be a countywide effort.
"Charleston cannot lead in this," Jones said. "It would look like a power movement of the city, and actually, if there would be a loser in this, it would be Charleston. We'd go from a 28-member council to only about seven."
Mullens said he couldn't see the prudence in spending city resources to go to Louisville because most in the city are opposed to participating.
"It's an overwhelming portion of South Charleston that just don't have any interest in it," he said.
Other Kanawha County leaders left Thursday on the trip to see how metro government operates in Louisville and were to return later today.
At the council meeting, Mullens said the two selling points of metro government are that it is efficient and effective. South Charleston already has efficient and effective government, he said.
"Cooperation and communication is fine," Mullens said, "but we have that already."
Mullens said the city currently cooperates and communicates with other surrounding municipalities.
"I think we have the best services in West Virginia," Mullens said.
City Attorney Mark Clark said metro government, if approved, would at first be limited to only the county and the largest city within the county, Charleston. Other municipalities later could opt to join the system.
Clark said the city could enter metro government after the first year via two routes: city council's approval or a petition signed by at least 15 percent of city's residents to get the issue on the ballot, followed by a 55 percent majority approval in an election.
"Essentially, South Charleston will only be involved in consolidated government if it so chooses," Clark said. "Otherwise, South Charleston and other cities would continue to function as is."
Mullens said he believes a citywide vote would fail by 70 percent or more.
He said all he hears about the topic from citizens and local business owners is, "Mayor, don't let this happen to South Charleston."
Mullens said, "The citizens of South Charleston should know that they control their own destiny."
September 8th, 2008, 02:03 PM
Renovation starts at Capitol Complex parking garage (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200809050229)
Auditor placed blame on state for failure to maintain facility
By Justin D. Anderson, Charleston Daily Mail, September 5, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Crews have started work to repair major problems found at the Capitol Complex parking garage.
Carl Walker Construction out of Pittsburgh is being paid $1.7 million to fix the garage, which was found to have weak welds, major leaks and electrical problems.
The company specializes in parking garage construction, design and restoration.
Work to reseal the top level of the 765-space garage began Aug. 18. The entire project should be completed by Nov. 30, said Diane Holley, spokeswoman for the state Department of Administration.
Crews will be working downward to the bottom level in six phases. The work includes repairs to drains, elevators, weak welds and electrical systems.
While the work is ongoing, state employees and others who use the garage will be temporarily transitioned to the parking lots next to the University of Charleston stadium. Holley said the state would not pay to use these lots.
The $20 monthly parking fees charged to users also will be waived, resulting in an estimated $30,000 revenue loss for the state parking section, Holley said. The revenue is used for lot upkeep.
"The Department of Administration made the decision to waive the parking fee ... due to the inconvenience that this project would place on these employees during this renovation project," Holley said.
An extra shuttle will be made available to transport state workers from the stadium lots over to the Capitol Complex, Holley said.
Most of the six phases of work is expected to last about three weeks, Holley said. Disruptions on the second and third floors of the garage will take about six weeks because of the amount of work required there, Holley said.
As the parking spaces are reopened, temporary lines and numbers will be painted, Holley said.
The money to fix up the garage comes from a fund meant for Capitol improvements.
The Legislative Auditor found serious problems with the garage in 2006.
The auditor blamed the state for failing to maintain the garage for the first six years of its existence, which caused rapid deterioration.
The state implemented a routine maintenance schedule the same year the audit was conducted, but the damages were done.
Last year, the state hired an engineering and architectural firm to come in and assess what it would cost to fix up the garage, which was built in 1999.
While it cost $5.6 million to build, engineers with the Buchart-Horn, Inc. firm estimated it would take $3 million just to make required fixes.
The firm also recommended another $900,000 in other upgrades, like to the sprinkler system.
When asked why the bid was so much lower than the engineers' estimate, Holley said the original contractor, BBL Carlton, agreed to come back and fix some of the welds. That alone would have cost $280,000.
"General Services Division chose to tackle the repairs and work that was necessary to complete," Holley said. "The other proposed modifications are considerations which are on the table. However, not all work was necessary to complete at this time."
September 9th, 2008, 05:23 AM
Haddad Park canopy designers chosen (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200809040681)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, September 5, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- They haven't signed a contract yet, but city officials have chosen a pair of designers to come up with final plans for a retracting canopy to hang over the central amphitheater at Haddad Riverfront Park.
David Gilmore and James Hemme of GAI Consulting Inc. will head up the team, City Manager David Molgaard said this week after meeting with them Tuesday afternoon.
"We're now developing our scope of services and working on a contracted price," he said. "It's a matter of figuring out exactly what we want them to do, what their deliverables will be, how we approach the project. We may have a contract to present at the next meeting of City Council."
Under state law for hiring architects and engineers, the city can't simply seek bids. Instead, it advertises a request, interviews likely candidates and selects a potential contract winner. Price can be mentioned only after a firm is selected. City officials hope to streamline the process under their pilot five-year home rule plan.
Other finalists interviewed for the job were Sasaki Associates, the Massachusetts consultants that suggested a canopy several years ago under their master plan for redeveloping the city's riverfront; Michael Baker Jr. Inc.; and Bravura Corp. of Louisville, Ky.
If the city can't come to terms with GAI, it will move to the second-highest ranked design team, Molgaard said.
Meanwhile, city officials are awaiting approval from the federal Small Business Administration, which controls the $2.4 million grant Sen. Robert C. Byrd secured earlier this year for the project.
"We can't do anything until they give us notice to proceed," Molgaard said. "I've been advised they'll give us their notice by the end of September."
He divided the design project into at least four elements. The city will build as many as possible, depending on how far the money stretches, he said. Some elements may have to wait for further grants.
"First and foremost is a canopy that will retract. Second is an overlook at Court Street, which also might include a pavilion or kiosk."
The pavilion might be used by vendors, or as a staging area for concerts or other events, he said. "Or somebody could take their lunch there, sit in the shade and watch the boats go by.
"Third is a replacement and extension of the lower wharf area - the boat dock on the west side of the stage. Right now it's just a concrete slab. We're envisioning a floating dock from the stage down to Court Street.
"Fourth, we're going to explore something dealing with the performance area, the performance stage." Now the city brings in a small city-owned stage for some events, or rents a larger one for others.
"There have been suggestions of a floating stage ... something separate from the seating area." The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers limits the size of structures that extend into the shipping channel, he said. "[The idea] needs to be fleshed out a little more."
The current project does not include reducing the size of the concrete seating area in the amphitheater as suggested by the Sasaki plan, Molgaard said. "Certainly we'll consider that through the initial plan with regard to the size and shape of the canopy, so that remains a possibility down the road.
"One thing GAI advised was the possibility of connecting the seating back over to the Boulevard in a more dramatic way through steps," he said. The current design has entrances to the park only at each end. "If we open it up in the middle, it ties it all together.
"That wasn't identified in the request for proposals, but all the people in our evaluation team see that as something we'd like to do. I expect we're going to explore that."
Construction could be complete by next summer, Molgaard has said, or some projects may be postponed until September 2009 to avoid conflicts with summer festivals.
September 10th, 2008, 02:28 AM
Boll Furniture building has new tenants, name (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/Business/200809060329)
By Sarah K. Winn, Charleston Gazette, September 7, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The former Boll Furniture has been reborn, complete with new tenants and a new name.
Now called The Equities House, the building is no longer home to furniture, but to the University of Charleston's graduate school of business and multiple private businesses hoping to bring wealth to West Virginia, said Henry Harmon, founder of Triana Energy, which occupies several floors in the building.
"At the core we are an oil and natural gas company," Harmon said, while sitting in the office of UC business school dean Charlie Ryan.
Harmon and other former executives of Columbia Natural Resources founded Triana Energy in 2001. Triana bought Columbia Natural Resources from NiSource Inc. in 2003 and sold it to Chesapeake Energy in 2005.
Since then, Harmon and other associates made their home in United Center, but the space had grown too small, Harmon said.
In September 2007, Doublet Enterprises Limited Liability Co., a company headed by Harmon and other investors, purchased the former Boll Furniture building for $1.2 million.
They moved on July 1 after months of renovations.
Harmon's son, Mike, spearheaded renovations on the 60,000-square-foot building. And while humble about the building's transformation, he's pleased about the work.
"We designed as we have gone along," Mike Harmon said. "I've never done it before. It's been exciting, though."
Along the way, the building's windows have been redone, floors retiled, new elevators added, and the fourth through sixth floors have undergone a complete build-out.
One of the most visible changes is the new walkway, connecting the building to the city's parking garage across Dickinson Street. Both Harmons said the walkway will help keep foot traffic out of the busy intersection.
The Equities House is actually two buildings, each more than 100 years old, Henry Harmon said.
During the renovations, contractors found old whisky bottles in the walls and a $5,000 check issued in 1934 from Clay County Bank.
An old safe from Noyes Thomas & Co., an original owner of the building, will be put on display, along with a grandfather clock purchased from Boll Furniture, Harmon said.
It's a way to remember what the building used to be, he said.
Along with the core oil and gas business of Triana and its partner companies, the floors of the building will house a new export and equity sales business, Harmon said, although he was mum on the business' exact nature.
The export business will be housed on one half of the first floor, which is still incomplete. It's set to be finished Sept. 17, Harmon said.
The other half of the first floor, with the entrance facing Virginia Street, will be a grand lobby for business-related events, he said.
The third floor is home to more office and conference space for anticipated growth, Harmon said.
The fourth floor, Harmon said, is the core of Triana, housing the engineering, geophysical and land staff, he said.
Up one more floor is Triana's management services, the financial team that serves all of the company's business.
The sixth floor houses the executive offices of Triana and all of its companies, including Highlands Drilling, Appalachian Geophysical Services, The Equities House and Pinzon Investments.
The second floor houses the University of Charleston's graduate school of business.
"They will be teaching the next generation of business [people]," Harmon said. "Students will have a chance to view things from the inside."
Members of the Harmon business team, along with other local businesses, will serve as mentors to the students.
That mentorship will help encourage West Virginia natives to stick around, instead of looking for jobs elsewhere, Mike Harmon said.
"It's a long-term solution to the migration [of West Virginia's young professionals]," he added.
The businesses at The Equities House are just part of what Harmon and his business associates are doing in West Virginia. In 2007, a group of investors led by Harmon bought both Charles Ryan Associates and Gallagher/Goodwin-Gregg Communications Group, both advertising and public relations firms.
In total, all of the Harmon-involved businesses employ 350 people, he said. About 30 people work at The Equities House, Harmon said. Over time, the number will grow to 75 or 100.
"We have plans for fairly aggressive growth," Henry Harmon said. "Oil and natural gas is growing and doing well."
September 15th, 2008, 01:50 AM
New, smaller library plan unveiled (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200809090706)
Project depends on city bond, backers say
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, September 10, 2008
Supporters of the proposed new downtown library unveiled a new design Tuesday morning for a 20 percent smaller and less expensive building.
Fundraisers for the $50 million project said the key now is to persuade Charleston leaders to ask city voters to approve a $10 million to $15 million bond issue.
In what Kanawha County Public Library Board President Mike Albert called an "evolution of the current design," a team of supporters showed Gazette editors plans for a two-story, 125,000-square-foot $26 million library.
"We've made significant changes in it," Albert said. "This is the first public presentation of this."
Indeed, the library's Web site still showed drawings of the old design, and a model of that plan was sitting in the main branch Tuesday afternoon.
The older design called for a $30 million, three-story building of up to 150,000 square feet to be built diagonally across from the Clay Center at the corner of Lee Street and Leon Sullivan Way.
Gone now is the soaring three-story atrium that linked the two wings in the previous design, said architect Steve Branner, president of ZMM Inc.
"We took the two original wings and folded them together to help with circulation. It's more compact and we think responds more to the program. While the older plan was nice, it kind of took on a life of its own."
Albert cited changes in the energy market, rising construction costs, a delay in fundraising, maintenance costs and the influence of new library Director Alan Engelbert among the reasons to downsize the building.
No public space has been taken out, Albert and Engelbert said - mostly hallways (circulation space, in architectural lingo) and administrative space.
"What was lost was the two buildings connected by an atrium," Albert said. "The problem was it made a really long library - a lot of hallway."
Engelbert, who helped design a library in his previous job in Manitowoc, Wis., has been tweaking the design with ZMM.
"What we feel it will do is bring the services together," Engelbert said. "The busy active social things will be concentrated on the first floor, with only one entrance so security will be enhanced. The second floor will be more traditional - the reference department, the West Virginia room, a research function."
By eliminating about 20,000 square feet of space, the architects hope to save about $4 million in construction costs.
Still, library leaders hope to raise the original goal of $50 million, half public and half private funds. Of that, $10 million is for targeted land acquisition, $30 million to build the downtown library and $10 million for improvements to other county libraries.
Three of 17 pieces of property for the downtown site have been acquired, Albert said. Owners aren't selling easily, he indicated. "We haven't convinced any to give us their property."
The Kanawha County Board of Education's extended squabble about library funding hasn't exactly helped fundraising, said Tom Heywood, chairman of the library foundation board. "It was a very common first question."
But the issue also rallied people around the libraries, he said. "Now I rarely hear it. I think people are confident libraries will continue to be funded.
"We have raised $16 million privately. We have lots of asks out there. We have $1 million from the county, and the [old] building, so close to $20 million. Privately, the building essentially sells itself.
"Then the public piece. That's been a bigger challenge. We're talking with the city."
Albert and Heywood said a bond issue is the most likely source of public money, but noted the city has other budget priorities.
"If we can convince the city, we can get them on board for $10 [million], $15 million," Albert said. "I think this will be one of the crown jewels of the city. I think the city should put it fairly high in its priorities.
"When we started this project, we felt the difficulty would be raising the private money," Albert said. "We've been bowled over by the response.
"We had hoped we'd convince the city, county and state to provide public money. Now we're getting questions: 'When is the public money coming in?' We'd like the city to come forward."
October 4th, 2008, 03:26 AM
University of Charleston to construct student apartments, parking facility (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200810010761)
$20 million project to start in December
By Alison Knezevich, Charleston Gazette, October 2, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - University of Charleston students will have more housing next fall, and everyone on campus will have more parking options.
The school plans to build a $20 million apartment building and parking facility on the existing parking lot between MacCorkle Avenue and the UC pharmacy school, said Cleta Harless, the school's vice president for administration and finance.
UC officials plan to start construction in December, pending city approval of the project, Harless said. They hope to finish by August 2009.
The apartment building will wrap around the parking structure - both to camouflage the parking area and to maximize space, she said. Combining the two structures also will save money, she said.
"But it makes it more complicated and time consuming to meet an August 2009 completion date," she said. "We've got to really, really get going on the project."
Increased student enrollment has driven the need for a new residence hall, Harless said. Graduate students especially prefer apartment living.
"We're seeing an even greater demand for apartment-style housing," she said, adding that there are waiting lists for UC's two newest residence halls, which have apartments.
At the beginning of the school year, UC had 1,378 full-time students - 1,075 undergraduates and 303 graduate students, according to the school's communications department.
That total was up from 1,315 full-time students last school year.
The apartment building will hold about 150 students, Harless said. It will include apartments - which have full kitchens - and suites, which may have refrigerators and microwaves, but not full kitchens.
The building is designed so that UC will be able to add stories if needed, she said. Associated Architects Inc. of Charleston designed the buildings.
The parking facility will roughly double the capacity of the existing parking lot to more than 500 parking spots, she said.
"We have maximized our parking," Harless said. "We are at our capacity, and in order to accommodate the next three years of additional student enrollment growth, we have to have a parking structure."
October 9th, 2008, 02:31 PM
New zoning district planned for West Side (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200810060167)
Officials want to protect character of three-block area of West Washington Street
Charleston Daily Mail, October 6, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's planning department intends to establish a new zoning district.
The proposed urban corridor district was written with one small neighborhood in mind - the properties that front a three-block stretch of West Washington Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Maryland Avenue, said planning Director Dan Vriendt.
But the urban corridor district could eventually be expanded to other parts of the city, he said.
The main zoning districts right now are residential, commercial and industrial - each with sub-classes, such as single-family residential (R-2) up to residential office (R-O).
In broad terms, the urban corridor district is designed to protect and promote the neighborhood's pedestrian-friendly character. But it also solves a technical zoning problem, Vriendt said.
"The reason for this is there is an urban renewal district on the West Side - the West Side Urban Renewal Plan - that was adopted in 1985. It was a 20-year plan, so it expired," Vriendt said.
Under that plan, the West Washington strip was designated a Downtown Village district, with strict requirements. Building owners there, like those downtown, had to get the blessing of the city's Architectural Review Committee before changing the outside of the buildings. The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority was in charge of enforcing the plan and its zoning requirements.
But although it technically expired in 2005, the plan hasn't really disappeared, Vriendt said. "The plan and the zoning behind it stays in place until the city finally removes the overlay zoning." That's the intent of the UCD, and a companion measure that officially repeals the old plan and transfers its zoning rules.
"When we bring this back into the city zoning, we want to make sure we have a comparable zoning district," Vriendt said.
Washington Street is very walkable, Vriendt said.
"One of the things that makes it very walkable is the storefronts are up to the street. There are large amounts of glass."
The district will require that any new construction mimic the old.
"One of the requirements is a maximum of a five-foot setback from the street," Vriendt said. "On the first floor, you are required to have between 60 and 90 percent glass from two feet to 10 feet" above the sidewalk. "The primary entrance shall face the primary street."
Owners must also use high-quality materials such as brick, stone and wood clapboard to "relate to the historic . . . context of the neighborhood." Modern materials like Dryvit, the stucco-like system used on some downtown façades - Vriendt mentioned Bar 101 on Capitol Street - are discouraged.
Parking requirements used in other parts of the city have been relaxed.
"Most of these buildings are built property line to property line, with no on-site parking. So we're waiving the on-site parking requirement if you're within 300 feet of an approved accessory or public parking lot. In an adaptive reuse, they don't need to provide parking - basically they're grandfathered in. That's for existing buildings."
The old urban renewal plan had similar design rules, but the Architectural Review Committee had some leeway in interpreting them, Vriendt said.
In the urban corridor district, "there are watered-down design criteria. The difference is when you're going before a board for approval, or having staff approve it. These [new] regulations have to be very clear. It can't be discretionary. We watered it down, decided what was important to us and made them rules."
Many of the rules were taken straight out of the new community renewal plans for the East End and West Side (the latter covering a large swath of the West Side west of Maryland Avenue). Those plans have special rules for designated Corridor Village Districts (CVDs) along Washington Street.
"They're very similar," Vriendt said. "I could see those CVDs being converted to the UCD when those plans expire. And there are other areas of town that might fit, like Five Corners."
The Municipal Planning Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal Wednesday, in the first step toward adoption by City Council.
October 10th, 2008, 04:35 AM
Haddad Park makeover funds approved (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200810081161)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, October 8, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Haddad Riverfront Park is about to get a $500,000 makeover, courtesy of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, in addition to a canopy and other improvements to be funded by a $2.4 million federal grant.
CURA board members approved City Manager David Molgaard's request for funds to create a new central entrance to the park's amphitheater and add streetscape-style design features along Kanawha Boulevard near the park.
In all, board members committed more than $700,000 of CURA funds Wednesday for three projects, including the first phase of a West Side streetscape project that will fill in an unimproved gap of Washington Street during the next 10 years.
But they declined Kanawha Valley Senior Services' $200,000 request to help buy a new heating system for the Tiskelwah Center on the West Side. They asked Director Scott McClanahan to get more estimates and seek more sources of funding.
The Haddad Park improvements were suggested by GAI Consultants, the contractors chosen by the city to design the canopy, Molgaard said, and were not part of the city's "request for proposals" for designers under the federal grant.
"They came up with a concept that the selection committee was really taken with: In addition to the canopy, that we open up the center of the seating bowl and add streetscape along the Boulevard," he said.
The project can be done simultaneously with the federally funded work, Molgaard said - the retractable canopy, an overlook/kiosk at the foot of Court Street and a new floating dock that would extend downriver from the park to Court Street.
The changes were first envisioned by Sasaki Associates, the consultants hired by the city several years ago to draw up a master plan for improving the Kanawha riverfront through the city, Molgaard said.
Libby Ballard, a neighborhood planner with the city and a West Side Main Street board member, asked CURA members to commit $121,000 as matching funds for a federal grant request for the Washington Street streetscape project. For the first of six project phases, Main Street estimates it will cost $605,000 to rebuild sidewalks, plant trees and relocate utility lines along West Washington Street from Beatrice Street to Hunt Avenue, she said.
Designer Jeff Nelsen of the Floyd Browne Group said other sections of West Washington Street were improved about 20 years ago in previous streetscape projects.
"This is the last piece of streetscape on Washington Street, starting from the Capitol going past Patrick Street. A lot of the utility lines were relocated or buried. This middle piece needs to be completed."
As in other streetscapes, utility line relocation is the most expensive part - more than half the total cost of the first phase. Nelsen said he based his estimates on the recent East End streetscape. "On the East End we only put electric underground. We plan to put all three underground - electric, telephone and cable."
Finally, Mountain Mission Director John Roberts successfully lobbied for an $80,000 grant to erect a metal building at 1620 Seventh Ave. for an estimated $678,000.
"We've taken on a project called the Donation Center," he said. "We have trucks on the road, we pick up items, we process them, give them to individuals and have two thrift stores. This has been a vision, a goal of mine for three years.
"When we open the door, I want it bought and paid for. We've spent a lot of money, buying up detrimental properties, putting in nice parking lots."
CURA's $80,000 will go toward three items, he said - parking lot preparation, green spaces beside the building and parking lot, and a 5-foot-tall veneer stone façade on three sides of the building. "We want it to be more than a metal building on the West Side. We need more money to do that," Roberts said.
October 13th, 2008, 01:51 PM
Restaurateur Sadorra tries his hand at downtown living (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/Business/200810110429)
By Sarah K. Winn, Charleston Gazette, October 12, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston restaurateur Virgil Sadorra is at it again, but this time it's something completely different - loft-style living in downtown Charleston.
He's made a brochure for his planned Rose City Lofts, and now he just needs some tenants - six of them.
"You have to have a certain personality to live downtown," he said. "People have said, 'You won't sell it.' I said, 'Let me try at least.'"
In 2006, Sadorra purchased the old Rose City Press building on Virginia Street. He had immediate plans to reopen his Delish restaurant, which had burned to the ground in March 2006.
"The fire gave me a new perspective on the industry," he said in June 2006. "Persistence is the key in entrepreneurism."
He still believes that two years later.
"From that fire, I think I found balance," he said last week. "It changed the perspective on how I looked at things."
Since 2006, he has been busy. He's opened Cilantro's in the old Delish spot on McFarland Street, Delish Express on Washington Street East and is revamping the Vandalia Lounge on Hale Street.
Downtown living isn't a new concept for Charleston. Other loft projects - individual units on Hale Street and 816 on the Boulevard - have happened. Others - Marketplace Lofts on Court Street and residences at KB&T Renaissance Tower on Capitol Street - haven't really.
Why is Sadorra's project different? First is the price point, he said. A move-in-ready, 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath loft will start at about $200,000, he said.
His price is based on what people are asking for, he said. He's targeting the young professional crowd, who, in some cases, are already paying $600 to $800 a month for apartment rents, he said.
A $200,000 mortgage wouldn't cost that much more - in the $1,000 to $1,200 range, he said.
"And you own it," he said.
There will be two units each on the second, third and fourth floors of the building, he said. The units will have either a river or city view, he said.
His plans call for movable walls so residents can change the layout if they choose, he said.
There will be on-site parking and other amenities, including a rooftop pavilion and workout room. Also in the plans are a tenant grocery store and room service, he said.
The grocery store will feature carryout pastas and Sadorra's signature sauces once featured at the McFarland Street Delish.
That's really why he wants the loft project to happen.
"It's a steppingstone to getting the Delish restaurant back," he said.
Why attempt a downtown loft space when other projects have failed?
Sadorra admits that downtown living isn't for everyone. With a wife and two small children it doesn't make sense for his family anymore.
But the want is there, he said.
He points out that the recent downtown loft walks by the Charleston Area Alliance's Generation Charleston, a young professional's organization, have had 100 attendees.
For now, Sadorra is finishing up details with a contractor and architect. He doesn't have a start date on the project, but he wants it done sooner rather than later.
"The building, it gets you the views and the price," he said. "I want to find that market and that person to move in."
October 22nd, 2008, 05:05 AM
Highland Hospital project put on hold (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200810210372)
By Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette, October 21, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Highland Hospital is postponing plans to build a $16 million replacement facility, citing high interest rates and financial turmoil in the bond market, hospital officials announced today.
The psychiatric hospital in Kanawha City has canceled an Oct. 31 groundbreaking ceremony.
"We are no different from anybody else in America wanting to construct a new facility," said Dave McWatters III, Highland's chief executive officer. "We will simply have to wait for the stabilization of the markets. The timing for us could not have been worse."
Highland also plans to bolster its fundraising campaign to help pay for the new 80-bed facility.
McWatters hopes construction might start in three to six months.
The replacement hospital is expected to help ease overcrowding at state-run psychiatric hospitals in Weston and Huntington.
October 29th, 2008, 05:12 AM
Charleston real-estate market touted by 'Today' (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200810270708)
By Sarah K. Winn, Charleston Gazette, October 28, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Charleston is one of the top five cities in the nation where people should invest in real estate, a national television commentator said Monday.
On NBC's "Today" show, real estate commentator Barbara Corcoran ranked Charleston third, behind Binghamton, N.Y. and Amarillo, Texas. The other two cities making the list were Corpus Christi, Texas, and Des Moines, Iowa.
Dean Dawson, president of the board of directors of the Kanawha Valley Board of Realtors, was pleased with the mention.
"It's nice to finally see recognition of what's been going on here for awhile," he said.
Corcoran cited several reasons why Charleston is a good place for buying real estate. She noted the three major interstates that converge in the city, which bring commerce with them, she said.
Dawson said Charleston is a focal point particular for the state. "Everything funnels to Charleston," he said, also noting the city's proximity to major metropolitan markets.
The rising median home price in Charleston - up 7.1 percent from this year's first quarter, according to the National Association of Realtors - also is a reason to invest in Charleston, Corcoran said.
Dawson said Charleston's housing market has always been particularly stable. Without a major boom, there can't be a major bust, he said.
Corcoran pointed to Charleston's riverfront development goals, although she did not mention any project in particular.
"[That is] a note of optimism at a time when every other city is laying low and waiting to see what is going on with real-estate prices," she said.
Dawson theorized that she was referring to the 2005 plan to narrow Kanawha Boulevard and increase green space along the river.
Also, two major condo projects - one by the University of Charleston and the other by the Howard family called "the boulevard @ 2412" - are in the works.
"Our biggest asset that we have in the whole valley is the river," Dawson said. "It's something most cities would die to have."
Finally, Corcoran pointed to the fact that Charleston has more women than men, saying that that is good for home prices. Charleston's population is 53.4 percent female, according to the 2000 census.
Whatever the reasons, Dawson is confident that Charleston will continue to have an attractive housing market.
"We live in our own bubble here," he said. "We don't pay attention to what's going on nationally."
October 29th, 2008, 05:13 AM
Fate of trestle project is up in the air (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200810270711)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, October 28, 2008
[cnImage] See a map of the project
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A plan to convert a 100-year-old railroad trestle into a hiking and biking bridge across the Kanawha River could rest on next week's presidential election, a key supporter says.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., announced earlier this year he had secured $2 million for the project through the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Dennis Strawn, a biking enthusiast and member of the nonprofit group Friends of the Kanawha Trestle Trail.
The funding has yet to be approved by the full Senate or the House of Representatives, though, and Congress has adjourned until the next session, Strawn said Monday.
"If we get that, and with the $1.5 million we already have from other sources, we'll be able to build phase one of the project," Strawn said.
Phase one includes building a new deck on the bridge, erecting a safety fence, and connecting the trestle to ground-level trails on both sides of the river - to Kanawha Boulevard and to MacCorkle Avenue.
In phase two, the trestle would be linked to a trail beside the railroad right of way through the West Side, across the Elk River on the Whipple Bridge and to the Capitol Market and Laidley Field.
The fate of Byrd's appropriation will be determined by the new Congress and new administration, and might very well depend on who gets elected president. Byrd has not specified how the money might be funded - through earmarks or otherwise, Strawn said.
"One person is politicking to cut it out," he said. "Obama has met with national walking and biking advocates and has promised to increase funding - but whether Congress agrees is another question.
"Look where we are today, with the economic turmoil. I don't know whether this would be viewed as wasteful. One man's waste is another man's ... it's needed. I think it's needed."
Strawn said he was encouraged after reading a Sunday Gazette-Mail article about a New York citizens group that raised $35 million to convert the 1889 Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge. The walking and biking bridge over the Hudson River will open next year.
"Did you see how long they've been working on it?" Strawn said. "Since 1992. I still have hopes for our project."
Mayor Danny Jones says the city administration is trying to push the project, too. Besides the Byrd funding, the city has applied for federal transportation grant money for several years.
"I think CSX needs to take it [the trestle] out of the rail system," Jones said. "Obviously, no trains have been running on it for years. And two, we have the $2 million appropriation. We hope that is forthcoming.
"We are for it, we've been for it," Jones said. "We think it's a quality-of-life issue. We'd like to see a nice walking/biking all the way to Kanawha City."
November 15th, 2008, 05:17 AM
New life being pumped into Slack Street building (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200811140218)
Apartments once owned by Frank Veltri, occupied by Mayor Danny Jones on tap for renovation
By Charlotte Ferrell Smith, Daily Mail, November 14, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The series of broken-down buildings on Slack Street might not look like much now, but they are steeped in Charleston history.
And the new owner is hoping to bring back at least a little bit of their former glory.
Richard Bossie, owner of Bossie Electric Co., has bought the property in the 500 block of Slack Street once owned by the late Frank Veltri, Charleston's prominent landlord and self-made millionaire.
Veltri, known for his annual Thanksgiving dinners that benefited the poor and homeless, died in 2001 at age 78 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. He could not read or write and went only to the third grade in school. Despite his learning disabilities, Veltri went on to become one of the city's most successful businessmen.
He owned hotels, clubs and poolrooms all over Charleston.
The four buildings on Slack Street were, at one time, among the most notable.
They've had several owners, including Veltri, but most were believed to have been built in 1939 by the Iacono family, who lived there at one time, Bossie said.
Bossie doesn't know much more about the family. But growing up on nearby Capitol Hill, he has talked to a lot of people familiar with the history of the buildings.
At one time or another they contained everything from a deli, restaurant and bar to a gas station, a brothel and apartments.
"We tore down a cinder block building and exposed an old stone building from the '20s," Bossie said. "The buildings are so intertwined."
One of them - a towering 5,000-square-foot structure at 503 Slack St. - is built almost like stair steps into the hillside. It's the one that has most caught Bossie's attention. He hopes to renovate it and is considering moving in there himself when the work is complete.
When Bossie bought the property in July from the Veltri family, he planned to use it to expand the parking area for his nearby businesses. And the condition of several of the buildings did necessitate that they be tore down.
Among the four structures, there were 18 apartments. One of the former tenants was Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, who said he lived there from 1987 to 1990 and again from 1994 to 1995.
Jones said he wound up there because he'd always liked that part of town. The nearby Capitol Hill area was known then to be a quiet, peaceful place, and the apartments were mainly occupied by "regular folks," Jones said.
At one time, Veltri was the mayor's neighbor.
Another apartment was once occupied by Jules Solsky, who was well-known in the city for having frequent run-ins with law enforcement officials. Solsky owned several Charleston properties, including a chain of adult bookstores.
When Solsky died in 2000 at age 62, Veltri - his former landlord - said he was a nice guy who once had nothing and just learned how to survive.
Jones said when he was living on the premises he never had any problems with his neighbors and found a great quality of life there.
"I walked to the cemetery every day," he said of the nearby Spring Hill graveyard.
Bossie, who now lives in Sissonville, watched as a wrecking crew worked this week to demolish one of the buildings.
"It's unique with a lot of character," he said, pointing to the block-and-brick, four-story structure he plans to save.
The inside walls are stone and brick like the outside. Floors are concrete covered with wood.
"We will clean and paint the walls and eliminate any unnecessary renovations," said Bossie, who added the building is structurally sound.
He and his wife, Carmen, a Kanawha County teacher, would have plenty of room. They have a son who is now in college.
Jones, for one, thinks the idea is a good one.
"He'll be pleased with how quiet it is there," Jones said. "It will be nice for him."
November 25th, 2008, 03:47 PM
Bailey & Glasser Makes Old New in Charleston (http://www.statejournal.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=47211)
By Ann Ali, State Journal, November 20, 2008
CHARLESTON -- They just don't make 74-foot wide storefronts on main streets like they used to anymore. Luckily for Bailey & Glasser LLC, they do make tax credits for properly rehabilitating historic buildings.
At 209 Capitol St., an expansive, 115-year-old building has worn many masks, including Diamond Shoe and Garment Co., S.S. Kresge's, Rite Aid, McCrory's and Dollar General.
The city of Charleston bought the vacant building and the Urban Renewal Authority worked to sell it about two years ago.
It was on the demolition list, but these days it has a fresh, new, up-to-date life with a cool, aqua palette and it even smells new.
"It was important that it stay occupied," said Ben Bailey. "It was a vacuum in the middle of the block."
Bailey said Bailey & Glasser's past location in the former Scott Drug building on Capitol Street was too small for the firm's 50-some employees who were spread across two city offices. He realized that downtown Charleston's historic district provided tax credits to businesses locating there, and saw opportunity with 209 Capitol in a dark building with a basement so run-down, some employees were too scared to even enter at the beginning of the renovation process.
"An architect from Cincinnati came in and spent a lot of time with us at the firm to get a feel for how we work and our needs," Bailey said. "Our old building was smaller and there were only eight of us, so the answers were more obvious.
"We knew what we liked, but your physical work space defines what we do."
Bailey acquired the option to purchase the building and held it for more than a year. He immediately put together a team, and while the architect began building programming, he snagged Pray Construction Co., partly for the company's experience in historic renovations and partly because of its reputation for staying on time and on budget.
"We had structural engineers, environmental engineers, HVAC experts, plumbers, all kinds of people in the building before it all started," Bailey said. "(Pray Construction) was wonderful in the way they charted out the work flow with excruciating detail."
Pray described it as a "generous" building, since average fronts on Capitol Street are 25-feet wide.
Water leaks in the building went unnoticed through the spring, but made themselves known in the winter when pipes burst, rushing water out into Capitol Street.
"There were significant concerns," said Mark Grigsby, president of Pray. "Any time you have empty space, it's like an automobile that doesn't get driven. ... It's an emotional issue, when you want to save a structure."
The pieces began to come together at once.
Grigsby said the entire project team walked through the building many times trying to ensure the renovation would make economic sense.
Construction cost $4,133,818.
"We had to overcome structural failures of the past," said Erich Reggi, project manager for Pray. "In 1920, nobody cared if you cut a floor joist in half."
Grigsby said the building was stripped to its bare bones, and the team saw history through layers of flooring. They saved a few pieces of history, such as a large red bell integrated in the old sprinkler system that wailed for the fire department's attention when smoke hit it.
"They want you to save that which is historic and anything you build to look new so anyone can look and tell the difference," Bailey said. "It had had so many floods, fires and owners, so there was not a lot left on the inside."
Bailey said an issue he ran into was a big brick wall he insisted include some windows for his employees, which wasn't entirely historic, but brought green standards of natural lighting to the building.
The original rough-sawn West Virginia lumber stayed in the building, and no natural resources were depleted for the project.
"The notion that they built things better in old days just isn't true," he said. "We know better now; we have more engineering and more technology."
Reggi said they started gutting the entire building the first week of October 2007, and the deconstruction lasted about three months. He said that process lent itself to green efforts of salvaging and recycling. The project yielded 10 tons of recyclable metals, such as the old pressed tin ceilings. Workers went in and by hand separated those that were cracked and rusted then sent the ones that still were usable to a flea market.
Bailey said the city of Charleston and the city's parking authority were cooperative partners by generously providing parking and street closures to make the project easier.
Reggi organized overlapping teams to work in the building at once, and interior construction started the second week of June. The firm moved into its new home in October 2008, a year after work began. Bailey said time and cost projections from Pray in the very beginning stages were made "off-the-cuff," but ended up being quite accurate.
Bailey said his firm's work drove the design of the three-story building, with the lower level becoming an "electronic hub" for every document that comes into the building. He said each item is scanned, copied and filed before being "beamed" throughout the building. He also was able to add a small gym down there with a few machines and a television for his employees.
Sleek details envelope the design.
Bailey said each employee was allowed to design his or her own workspace with L-shaped desks, tables or other variations. That was crucial since his firm has impromptu meetings anywhere so people don't have to haul materials to conference rooms all the time. Three conference rooms with blackout panels are available and a few "war rooms" are throughout the building. Each room is soundproof.
The third floor is being finished with a design just like the second floor. Bailey said he's not sure if he'll lease it or use it.
"I thought it would be a good fit, but I didn't anticipate how fast we would grow," he said. "I didn't think I'd be standing here possibly needing this space."
December 2nd, 2008, 01:55 PM
Elk City newest historic district (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200811300421)
Near West Side used to be separate city
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, December 1, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - When John Brisben Walker bought the rich bottomland along the west bank of the Elk River that was to become Elk City, the West Side was still largely farmland.
Although Walker lost his West Side property along with most of his money in the Panic of 1873, his vision remains today in the gridwork of streets he laid out - broad avenues named after states (Ohio, Tennessee) crossed by streets named after West Virginia counties (Roane, Randolph).
Billy Joe Peyton, a history professor at West Virginia State University, traces the development of the West Side - from its farming roots through its
bustling prime - in an application to the National Park Service for its National Register of Historic Places. City leaders learned last week the Park Service officially recognized the Elk City Historic District.
The district covers about 13 acres - two city blocks on the south side of West Washington Street from Pennsylvania to Ohio Avenue plus properties along the north side of Washington Street and on Bigley Avenue.
Of the 50 buildings in the district, 34 are considered "contributing," in that they're at least 50 years old.
Elk City is now the city's fifth historic district, joining the East End, Edgewood, Grosscup Road and downtown, which was approved in early 2006.
"We're just really pleased this particular part of the West Side has been designated," said Pat McGill, director of West Side Main Street. "We see that as a first step in preservation of some of the buildings in the neighborhood."
Although the designation offers no special protection to historic buildings whose owners might want to modernize or demolish them, it provides a major carrot: Owners who follow federal guidelines for historic preservation can earn state and federal tax credits of up to 30 percent for the money they spend on improvements.
"The tax credits I think will be a big incentive to owners to redevelop their buildings," McGill said, "and that's something Main Street emphasizes - re-utilizing your assets.
"We have a couple of owners who have started renovations. There are other buildings that desperately need repairs. I can see out my window a couple I'd like to get my hands on."
A man of many talents
The man who historians say turned the West Side into a bustling neighborhood was just 23 years old when he came to Charleston in 1870. In addition to his development plan he reportedly amassed a half-million-dollar iron-making fortune and founded the weekly Charleston Herald, hiring his father-in-law, David Hunter Strother, as editor. Strother is better known by his pen name, Porte Crayon.
Walker and his partner, William Playford, bought a 110-acre parcel from the Carr family, Peyton wrote. For $33,000, they gained a roughly rectangular tract stretching from the Elk to Delaware Avenue, and from Washington Street to the Kanawha.
The Carrs' estate, Edgewood, was the first of five pre-Civil War farms that fronted the Parkersburg Pike and Point Pleasant Road (West Washington Street) between the Elk River and Kanawha Two Mile.
To spur development of his property, Walker built a second bridge over the Elk at Virginia Street, which opened in 1873. The area was rapidly developing as an industrial center, with a tobacco factory, machine shop, foundry, furniture and stove factories, and at least two sawmills.
Growth of the J.B. Walker Addition, also called the West End Extension, really took off after the Kanawha & Ohio Railway built the Whipple Truss, the first rail bridge over the Elk. It still stands today near Spring Street.
Walker had convinced another partner, Nicholas J. Bigley, to develop another tract up the Elk River that became known as Glen Elk, and other sections were added.
Upper and Lower Glen Elk combined with the West End Extension in 1891, incorporating under the name Elk City. The town's population reached 2,000 a year later.
Its status as an independent city was short-lived though. The bigger neighbor across the Elk - now the state's capital - annexed it in 1895, and Elk City became Charleston's Sixth Ward.
Elk City was a blue-collar sort of place - filled with places to work and the folks who held those jobs.
"Because of its location, right on the river, there was a lot of industry," Peyton said. "And when the railroad came in, it really caused the West Side to take off."
The commercial district along Washington Street soon followed, because all those working people needed places to bank, shop and worship.
The Ort sisters' drygoods shop at the corner of Tennessee - recently restored by John Bullock of Gaddy Engineereing - was an early landmark, as was the Elk Banking Co., just across the street.
The hulking Staats Hospital Building just up the street started life as a theater, in 1922, and as an early home of Kelley's Mens' Shop, Peyton said. It was designed by John C. Norman, a black architect who built hundreds of houses in several states.
The top floor of the Staats building was a lodge hall for the Knights of Pythias, as an engraved plaque near the roof says. "A lot of the buildings, like the Ort building, the upper floors held lodge meetings," Peyton said. "That reflects the working-class neighborhood."
Elk City, and West Washington Street, continued to grow and flourish through World War II and into the 1970s, he said. "That whole corridor, from Greenbrier Street to Littlepage, was the main commercial line."
Restaurants, grocers, feed stores, funeral homes, movie theaters - a 1940 city directory listed 160 different businesses along West Washington Street from Elk River to Kanawha Two Mile.
Construction of the interstate- highway system altered traffic patterns, though. and other societal and marketing shifts combined to end the West Side's heyday. Now civic leaders, through Main Street and historic district efforts, are trying to restore some of the former energy.
Elk City might not be the last West Side neighborhood to gain historic district status, said McGill, the Main Street director.
"This is something we're going to continue to work on. We've had inquiries about getting the far end of Washington Street designated, as well. Those buildings are eligible, too."
No formal efforts are underway, she said. "We were waiting to get the Elk City designation first. We would probably talk to property owners to see if they'd be interested. That might be the third historic district on the West Side."
December 5th, 2008, 01:37 PM
Slow news day, but very interesting nevertheless.
Charleston landmark for sale for $1.43 million (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200812040214)
By Justin D. Anderson, Charleston Daily Mail, December 4, 2008
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For just $1.43 million, you can own a piece of Charleston's history.
Ben Bailey, a partner with the Bailey and Glasser law firm, is selling the old Scott Building on the corner of Capitol Street and Brawley Walkway.
The law firm had offices in the red brick building - which is well over 100 years old - for about seven years until it outgrew the space. Now, the firm is down the street in the old McCrory building.
"I just love it," Bailey said of the Scott Building. "I hated to leave it. It was just a great place to work."
If you're familiar with Capitol Street, the Scott Building is the one with the unusual turret shooting up the southeast corner and the old-style hand-painted billboard on the side advertising a special hand cream and Huyler's brand candy and chocolate fountain drinks.
It was built around 1891 for the Scott brothers, W.D. and G.W., who opened up a drugstore and soda fountain in the bottom level. Each brother kept an apartment on the third and fourth floors and would come down to work every day, Bailey said.
Bailey said he's talked to a lot of people who have stopped by to reminisce about when they used to come into the Scott Brothers' drug store for a soda after Charleston High School let out 50 or so years ago.
After the drugstore closed, the First Empire Savings and Loan Association set up shop there. Then United Bank took over the building before Bailey's firm moved in.
"I think, architecturally, it's the most interesting building on the street," Bailey said while giving a recent tour to the Daily Mail. "The turret is wonderful."
Bailey said he didn't have to do much to the interior of the building when the firm moved in. United had thoroughly upgraded the infrastructure.
There was a teller counter and window in the front of the lobby that needed to come out. Cubicles in the back of the lobby for loan officers had to come out to make way for two conference rooms and a kitchenette.
"I didn't have to do much other than reconfigure it for a law office," Bailey said.
Bailey also had the carpet pulled up in the lobby, which revealed ornate, intricately laid ceramic tile work. Bailey had the same design in the tiles painted on the ceiling, which is trimmed in the original woodwork, and reproduced along the top of the new walls enclosing the conference rooms.
Through one of the walls of the spacious lobby, the whir of the United automated teller machine outside on Brawley Walkway is audible when someone uses it. But Bailey said a new owner of the building can either keep the lease with United, or get rid of the ATM.
Bailey, his partner Brian Glasser and staff kept offices on the upper floors (accessible by elevator or stairs).
Glasser and Bailey got the big offices at the end of the long floors near Capitol Street. Natural light floods in through the tall windows, which are framed by the original woodwork.
A person bent on contemplation could stand inside the turret space of those offices and have a panoramic view of Capitol Street. It's a great place to people watch.
Bailey said his staff enjoyed working in the building because of its proximity to Taylor Books and the various eateries along Capitol Street.
For a lawyer, the building's location is perfect because it's close to other law firms and the Kanawha County Judicial Annex.
The original hardwood flooring is laid bare in most of the space of the upper levels giving the place a classic feel.
Bailey had installed a spiral staircase between the second and third floors for quick access between the partners' offices - in case some serious legal business was going down.
The Scott Brothers' billboard painted on the side of the building was another of Bailey's projects. He had all the brick re-painted and a sealant placed over the paint to protect it.
Despite the lagging economy, Bailey said he's had quite a few interested parties come and look at the building, all with their own ideas.
"It's a nice building," he said. "At the price, buying a building makes sense for people that would otherwise rent."
All of downtown Charleston is considered a historic district, so state and federal tax credits might be available for renovations, Bailey said.
Overall, the building is 13,378 square feet, with each floor ranging from 2,984 square feet to 2,505 square feet. It's also got a 2,400-square-foot basement.
Anyone interested in taking a look at the building should call Bailey at 304-345-6555.
January 7th, 2009, 03:15 PM
Trestle project gets grants, needs more; city seeks another $250K (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200901050794)
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, January 6, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With a new $100,000 federal grant, a promised $2 million earmark and earlier commitments for about $1.3 million, backers of the proposed Kanawha Trestle Trail project on Monday reached out for still more money.
Charleston City Council members approved a resolution Monday that calls for Mayor Danny Jones to sign a $250,000 Transportation Enhancement grant application.
The application seeks to tap the same source - federal "TE" funds - that provided $100,000 late last year, said Dennis Strawn, a spokesmen for the group that has been pushing the project for several years.
Members of Friends of the Kanawha Trestle Trail hope to convert the 100-year-old abandoned railroad trestle that crosses the Kanawha River near Patrick Street to a hiking and biking bridge that will connect to trails on both sides of the river. On the north side of the river, trails would extend west to North Charleston and east through the West Side.
Phase two of the project includes conversion of a second bridge, the old Whipple railroad bridge over the Elk River, and trails to Capitol Market and Laidley Field in the East End.
The friends group is awaiting word from Washington on the status of $2 million that Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., earmarked last year in the Senate Appropriations Committee. The funding must still be approved by the full Senate and House of Representatives.
"I can't even begin to speculate about that," Strawn said Monday. He previously suggested the earmark might stand a better chance of success under a Democratic administration.
Strawn told members of council's Finance Committee that state Highways officials notified him about the $100,000 TE grant on Nov. 21.
Each year the Division of Highways divides up a pool of federal TE money to projects across the state. "We're going back to ask for more," he said.
"It's an ongoing process. The $250,000 will get us off the trestle and into the West Side," Strawn said.
Previously, the group secured $800,000 in federal funds through Rep. Shelley Capito, R-W.Va.; a $475,000 commitment from the city; and about $100,000 from other sources, he said.
Also this year, using a $50,000 state participation grant secured by Kanawha County legislators last year, the group plans to do a design study for the East End portion of the trail and the Whipple bridge, Strawn said.
January 7th, 2009, 03:17 PM
Link has map.
Council OKs effort to secure trestle trail funding (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/Kanawha/200901050784)
City seeking $250,000 grant for fitness walk from Mound to Coonskin
By Cara Bailey, Charleston Daily Mail, January 6, 2009
CHARLESTOn, W.Va. - Charleston city officials are making some resolutions of their own in the New Year.
"Wellness" was the key word at the first city council meeting of 2009, with officials deciding to seek hundreds of dollars in grant money to work on a long-awaited trail project and announcing the development of a new employee fitness center.
Council approved a resolution Monday night allowing the city to ask for a $250,000 transportation enhancement grant from the Department of Transportation for the Kanawha Trestle Rail Trail project.
The trail would go through the heart of the city and allow a safe, scenic place for people to walk from the Mound in South Charleston to the state Capitol Complex and eventually, Coonskin Park.
"It will be great for the city if it ever comes through," Mayor Danny Jones said. "The city is going to compete for the money."
The trail, which could be used for biking, walking, jogging and skating, still needs money to get started. Plans are for the trail to cross the Kanawha and Elk rivers on former railroad bridges.
Dennis Strawn, a member of the Friends of the Kanawha Trestle Trail Project, said enough money has been secured from state and federal officials to take care of Phase One of the project, which includes restoration and conversion of one of the oldest and longest trestles in West Virginia. The former CSX bridge runs across the Kanawha River and through the West Side.
Strawn said that part of the project will cost about $2.5 million. Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., has secured about $2 million in federal appropriations for the city to start the restoration.
"Once we get off the trestle we can get on land, which wouldn't be as expensive," Strawn said.
The federal transportation grant, if approved, would pay for further construction, Strawn said. As much as the community could benefit from the trail, Strawn said he also believes it will benefit from the construction.
"(Construction is) bringing money to our community that would go to other communities if Charleston didn't ask for it," he said. "It's bringing dollars to our construction workers. I see it as a benefit."
January 7th, 2009, 03:18 PM
Any new high-rises going up? :? :)
January 8th, 2009, 02:01 PM
One mid-rise... and it was just put on hold :( There is another about 1/4 mile east of the Capitol and I believe construction has begun. The other mid-rise was a hotel tower at the Tri-State Gaming Resort in adjoining Cross Lanes, but I haven't heard anything on that project in a while.
UC shelves plans for luxury condos (http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200901060654)
By Alison Knezevich, Charleston Gazette, January 7, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The University of Charleston has postponed plans to build riverfront luxury condominiums, but officials haven't given up all hopes for the project, university President Ed Welch said Tuesday.
School leaders remain interested in building the condos, but realize that these are "not healthy economic times for people to make that kind of a change and commitment," Welch said.
"I really am hopeful that it's going to happen," Welch said. "I just don't know when, because I can't forecast what's going to happen with the economy."
In July, officials said they would likely cancel the project if they couldn't get at least 14 buyers for the planned 16 units by Jan. 1. Potential buyers have been informed that the school isn't ready to build, but the school hasn't scrapped the project, Welch said.
This fall, it became clear that the current economic climate and housing market could postpone the project, Welch said. The city approved preliminary plans for the project in September 2007.
"I have no doubt that the interest level's there," he said. "The issue is always timing."
About 10 or 11 people had signed up to buy the units, he said. The school had targeted empty nesters looking to downsize.
"We've not undertaken an aggressive marketing effort because we didn't think the ... economic environment was right for it," he said.
The high-end condos planned for near Triana Field were to range from $770,000 to $1.3 million, officials said this summer. Buyers would be required to donate $75,000 to the school over the life of their ownership.
Welch said he hopes construction of the condos might cost less than expected. UC officials are waiting to open bids on another construction project - a new residence hall and parking facility - and some people expect the bids to come in under projections due to problems the construction industry is facing, he said.
"If that is true, that would suggest that we might be able to develop a new cost for constructing the condominiums," he said.
April 17th, 2009, 05:32 PM
East End renovation plan under fire (http://wvgazette.com/News/200904150718)
New China re-do should go deeper than façade, councilman says
By Jim Balow, Charleston Gazette, April 15, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than a year after the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority warned him he needs to redevelop his property, and seven months after the deadline passed, the owner of the former New China restaurant in the East End asked CURA board members Wednesday to approve his plans to renew the building's exterior.
Anthony Halkias, lawyer for owner Philip Chin of Baltimore, handed out contractor's drawings and cost estimates for Chin's plan to renovate the façade of the brick building at the southwest corner of Washington and Elizabeth streets.
"[Chin's] family purchased the building in 1970," Halkias said. "He desires to keep ownership in his family. He intends to fully comply with the requirements of CURA.
"That building has been vacant and in disrepair for some time. If you examine this proposal and compare it to the requirements, there is substantial compliance," he said.
"The only difference has to do with this awning, which is not aesthetically good but serves a useful purpose. It protects people from the rain while they wait for the bus."
The East End Community Renewal Plan that CURA and City Council members adopted in 2005 identifies the New China building among several area sites considered critical for the future of the neighborhood.
Under the plan, CURA can send letters to owners of these properties, giving them six months to come up with a redevelopment plan. If they don't, CURA can buy the property, using its power of eminent domain.
CURA members started that process in March 2008 when director Pat Brown sent a letter to Chin. But until Brown sent another letter in February 2009, Chin never responded.
Chin hired a contractor who started working on the inside and outside of the building. But he never obtained a city building permit for the exterior work or got CURA's approval for the façade plan as required, Brown said, so Brown sent yet another letter and the work stopped.
Chin next met with city officials and Ric Cavender of East End Main Street, whose design consultant, Mike Gioulis, drew up plans for how Chin might renovate the façade in keeping with the historic nature of the area. Cavender said other owners on Washington Street have closely followed Gioulis' recommendations.
CURA Chairman Ed Maier asked if Gioulis had seen Chin's latest proposal.
"Mr. Gioulis had nothing to do with this," Halkias said. He said although Chin preferred to paint the awning, it could be removed if required."
Asked if Chin has a tenant for the building, Halkias said there is a potential tenant. "He's quite interested. A restaurant and maybe some art entity. It looks pretty promising."
Marc Weintraub, city councilman from the East End and chairman of council's Urban Renewal Committee, said CURA members were missing the point.
"The focus on the awning is not what you should be talking about." In the East End renewal plan, he said, "We specifically said this corner is critical to the future of the East End. This is much bigger ... it's the redevelopment of the New China restaurant and the property behind it."
Reading from the East End plan, Weintraub cited what he called the "critical" requirements: "Financial capability and responsibility of the developers, and schedule proposed for completion of development."
The redevelopment proposal would also include plans for off-street parking and vehicular access, he said, and should identify the tenants. The façade plan submitted Wednesday falls short of those requirements.
Maier, however, continued to focus on the façade. He urged Halkias, Chin and his contractor to meet with Cavender and Gioulis to try to reach a compromise on the façade, and offered to hold a special CURA meeting in a week or two if needed.
"I do admonish Mr. Chin for not responding to our notice in a more timely manner," Maier said. "We assume you were treating us like a stepchild."
Afterward, Weintraub indicated he wasn't sure CURA understood his point. "All City Council wants is for CURA to follow the East End Community Renewal Plan, which CURA adopted and approved ... no more, no less."
May 13th, 2009, 09:45 PM
Metro government bill latest veto victim because of technicalities (http://wvgazette.com/News/200905110570)
By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette, May 11, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislation to authorize metro government by a simple majority vote in the city of Charleston and in Kanawha County (SB239) is the latest bill to fall victim to Gov. Joe Manchin's veto pen because of technical errors.
"These issues always sneak up and catch you," Sen. Brooks McCabe, D-Kanawha, the lead sponsor and proponent of the metro government bill, said Monday of its veto.
McCabe said it should be a fairly simple matter for the Legislature to take up the veto message, correct the bill, and pass it again when legislators return to Charleston May 26 for a scheduled 11-day extended session.
"This is one of several bills we will be correcting because of technical deficiencies," he said.
To date, at least 12 of the 16 regular session bills Manchin has vetoed contained technical errors and flaws that prevented the governor from signing them into law.
In the case of the metro government bill, the error is that it refers to the wrong section of current state law.
Under the bill, the current requirement for a 55 percent "yes" vote for passage of metro government is reduced to a simple majority, but only in counties with population exceeding 150,000 and with a Class I municipality -- a provision intended to limit the bill to Charleston and Kanawha County.
However, the bill cites the wrong section of the state code that defines a Class I municipality. Chapter 8-1-3 defines Class I as cities with 50,000 or more population.
However, the bill instead cites Chapter 8-8-1, which actually gives authority for two or more adjoining cities to consolidate.
"The result of this error is to leave the term 'Class I city' undefined in the bill," Manchin wrote in his veto message. "Without a proper definition, my approval of this bill would render the legislation difficult, if not impossible, to apply."
While metro government has been a controversial issue in some quarters, McCabe said he doesn't anticipate any problems with a re-do of the measure in the House and Senate.
"I can't imagine anybody taking exception to this, after all," he said.
In the regular session, the metro government bill passed the Senate by a 29-5 vote, and the House by a 53-39 margin.
Also vetoed along with the metro government bill was a bill to make it a crime to escape from Juvenile Services facilities (HB2701). It, too, was vetoed because of a technical error.
Currently, there is no provision in state law to bring charges against juveniles who escape from state facilities.
Manchin also vetoed a bill to require the West Virginia Clean Coal Technology Council to study the feasibility of technology to capture and store carbon dioxide released by coal-fired power plants (SB507).
In his veto message, Manchin noted that he had already signed into law a bill (HB2860) that mandates that a working group be appointed by the Department of Environmental Protection to study that and other issues regarding carbon sequestration.
Besides that, Manchin noted, the Clean Coal Technology Council went out of existence on June 30, 2005, and has been defunct for nearly four years.
Also Monday, Manchin signed eight bills into law, including measures to:
Set a $4,750-a-year "floor" for Promise scholarships (SB373), beginning with the incoming freshman class of 2010. The legislation is intended to keep the costs of the merit-based scholarship program at $42 million a year, without having to reduce the number of scholarships available by raising qualifying standards.
The downside is that Promise scholarships will no longer cover the full cost of tuition at West Virginia University and three other state colleges.
| Add a third circuit judge in the 17th Circuit, which encompasses Monongalia County (SB338).
August 13th, 2009, 04:42 AM
Capitol Market takes second in national poll (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/News/200908110879)
By Zack Harold, Daily Mail, August 12, 2009
CHARLESTON, W.VA. -- It's no secret that some of the best produce in Charleston comes from the Capitol Market, but fans of West Virginia's largest farmers' market are helping to get the word out on a national level.
The market won second place in the medium-size division of the American Farmland Trust's nationwide poll of farmers markets. Virginia's Williamsburg Farms Market took first place in the division.
The competition had three divisions: large markets with 56 vendors and up, medium with 31 to 55 vendors, and small with 30 vendors and under.
Tammy Borstnar, executive director of the Capitol Market, says she found out about the competition through the trust's e-mail mailing list. After she signed the market up, Borstnar started putting out the word through the market's newsletter, e-mail blasts and local media announcements.
Every time an announcement went out, the market's vote count went up.
Borstnar says Charleston residents "wrapped their arms around" the competition and Capitol Market was in first place for a good portion of the competition, until last Wednesday.
"We had a pretty good lead against the second-place market that was in Delaware, but Williamsburg came out of nowhere and took the lead," she said.
Capitol Market finished the competition with 566 votes, behind Williamsburg's 725.
But Borstnar isn't complaining about the second-place finish.
"We're proud. We're proud of the response of shoppers in our community. We know we weren't far behind," Borstnar said.
Borstnar says the community supports the market because of the quality service it provides.
"We're definitely a great destination for farmers to bring their products and sell their goods," she said.
"I think we're a good asset to the community."
Gretchen Hoffman, communications coordinator for the American Farmland Trust, says the competition is part of the trust's "No Farms No Food" campaign, which promotes local farms and their products.
According to Hoffman, 800 markets nationwide participated in the poll and about 30,000 people voted.
"We are really reaching out and finding ways to increase the viability of farms in order to protect the farmland," Hoffman said. "I definitely think we met that objective this summer."
The Morgantown Farmers Market made the top 20 as well, coming in 16th with 85 votes.
Capitol Market opened in 1997.
It has more than 50,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space in what was once a rail yard for the New York Central Railroad Company.
The American Farmland Trust was formed by a group of farmers and conservationists in 1980 to preserve the nation's farmland. The "No Farms No Food" program began last year as a way to promote awareness of local farms and encourage consumers to patronize those businesses.
November 13th, 2009, 01:33 PM
Dow wants to subdivide tech park (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/Business/200911110914)
By George Hohmann, Daily Mail, November 12, 2009
The Dow Chemical Co. is asking the South Charleston Planning Commission for permission to subdivide 258 acres of the South Charleston Technology Park.
Dow spokesman Randy Fischback said, "We're asking for that so it will give Dow maximum flexibility in divesting portions of the tech park as opportunities present themselves and as we are hopeful to secure divestment deals.
January 10th, 2011, 05:16 AM
I've unstickied the few development threads that have been quiet for over a year. If you would like to update this thread regularly and see it re-stickied, please pm me! Thank you. :)