From an old train depot to empty buildings dotting a town square, the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University hopes to revive communities through its latest string of redevelopment grants.
Nine West Virginia communities will each benefit from a $5,000 grant award, made possible by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, to redevelop abandoned and dilapidated industrial sites.
The awards are part of the 2019-2020 Foundations for Overcoming Challenges and Utilizing Strengths West Virginia Brownfields Program, which helps communities create a redevelopment vision for brownfield properties.
Brownfields are abandoned or underutilized properties that have not been redeveloped due to real or perceived environmental barriers. Examples include former gas stations, glass factories, machine shops, manufacturing and processing facilities, dry cleaners, mine scarred lands, abandoned schools and former railroad-related properties.
“The FOCUS WV program provides financial, programmatic and technical assistance to West Virginia communities so they can create redevelopment visions that help overcome major obstacles in turning problem sites into community resources,” said Patrick Kirby, director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center.
“These grants are designed to get the ball rolling on projects that may have otherwise remained off the radar for years,” he added.
This year’s round of grant recipients include:
- Town of Bath, to transform its historic train depot and adjacent abandoned rail track into a recreational trail and trailhead. FOCUS funds will help conduct research on how to attract entrepreneurs, develop public/private partnership models and maximize economic opportunity with this recreational asset in the north-end of Bath;
- M.O.R.E (Monticello Ongoing Revitalization Efforts) in Clarksburg to develop a coalition of partners to plan and develop a tow yard into an expansion for the city park;
- Town of Marlinton, to create a community wetland educational park between a stretch of the Greenbrier River (Rail) Trail and 4th Avenue;
- Meadow River Valley Association, Inc., to develop the Meadow River Valley Community Center, which will consist of an early childhood development center, housing, recreational facilities and business incubation space;
- City of Shinnston, to fund the Phase 1 assessment for environmental testing on the Shinnston School so the project can continue to the next of redevelopment;
- Rofayki Inc., doing business as Spark! Imagination and Science Center, to hire a firm to conduct market research in Fairmont. The research would show if a children’s museum and science center is sustainable in Fairmont, if the location is viable, what programs and exhibits are wanted and needed in the area, and what Spark! can charge for these programs;
- Sutton Community Development Corporation/ONTRAC, to conduct an assessment to determine if there are any environmental deterrents that will impact the progress or completion of the site of the old Sutton Bank Building;
- Wellsburg Urban Renewal Authority, to begin the redevelopment of several properties along Wellsburg’s Town Square; and,
- Philippi Municipal Building Commission, to start the preparation of a plan to redevelop the Philippi Gateway area, including a conceptual rendering of a planned new commercial multi-use building.
The Northern WV Brownfields Assistance Center is a program of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU’s National Research Center for Coal & Energy.
Photo of Clarksburg Downtown Historic District Tim Kiser via Wikipedia.