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[Charleston] Random news from the Capitol City

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State museum gets money to start construction

Notes --

1. Fall 2008 could be when the new $17.6 million interactive state museum opens, although the final piece of funding has yet to be secured. Bids for construction could be let by late summer or early fall. Construction could begin by September.

2. West Virginia has been without a state museum for more than three years, after the old facility on the ground level of the Culture Center was gutted in anticipation of a new, modern facility. However, cost estimates for the new museum have nearly tripled from the original $6 million that was proposed in 1998.

3. The new design features a high-tech, interactive "show path" timeline, that takes visitors from the prehistoric to the present-day. It also contains 29 "discovery rooms" that feature displays and artifacts from specific events in the state's history.

4. A $6 million appropriation was sought during the 2007 regular session for the construction of the museum, but state legislatures did not include the funding in the 2007-2008 state budget. A $3 million transfer from the Department of Administration's Capitol Improvement fund, along with $11 million in previous legislative appropriations, brings the project to within $3.6 million of what is needed. The governor has pledged to find the funding needed to complete the museum.

Article information: "State museum gets money to start construction, By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette, June 6, 2007"

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Sale of Boll building boosts downtown trend

Notes --

1. The recent sale of the Boll Furniture building in downtown Charleston should "accelerate" a redevelopment trend on the east side. Doublet Enterprises LLC, a company led by Triana Energy LLC founder Henry Harmon, purchased the 100-year old six-story building at 900 Virginia Street East on June 6 for $1.2 million. The 60,000 sq. ft. building is next to an underutilized city parking structure.

2. The purchase of the building and the relocation of Triana will likely pull some of the emphasis on development east, as for years, the development was west of Capitol Street. The opening of the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences have also boosted the area's property values. The move of Triana will help ease downtown office prices.

2a. BB&T Square, Chase Tower, Huntington Square, Laidley Tower and United Center -- Charleston's office towers, are either full or nearly full. (See this thread for more information.)

2b. Triana's Boll building, plus the moving of BrickStreet Mutual Insurance to the Charleston Town Center mall, where it is building its 80,000 sq. ft. headquarters, should provide more relief. The move of Triana should also generate interest in retail -- especially restaurants -- on the east side.

3. Other projects nearby on the east end include a 2004 redevelopment of 901 Quarrier Street by the law firm, Pullin Flower & Flanagan PLLC.

Article information: "Sale of Boll building boosts downtown trend, By Joe Morris, The Charleston Gazette, June 7, 2007"

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CAMC housing nearly ready

CAMC housing nearly ready, By Eric Eyre, Charleston Gazette, June 13, 2007

The Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC) constructed a new 24-unit apartment building, called Jefferson Place, for medical school students and graduates who are conducting their residency training at CAMC. It has been at least 10 years since a new apartment project was built in Charleston's downtown or East End. The new $4.5 million building, at Morris and Quarrier Streets, was constructed at the site of the former Thomas Jefferson Junior High School and will open on July 1. All 24 units, which consist of one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, have been rented. Prices start at $595/month to $725/month.

The old school was purchased for $375,000 and demolished. The junior high's cornerstone was salvaged and will be installed in a landscaped area near the complex. It served as Charleston High School from 1915 to 1926 before becoming a junior high.

Approximately 40% of West Virginia University's medical students come to Charleston for their last two years of medical school. The complex joins two other CAMC apartments that are both near CAMC Memorial hospital.

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University of Charleston will open first downtown campus

University of Charleston will open first downtown campus, by George Hohmann, Daily Mail, June 13, 2007

The University of Charleston will open a graduate school of business and locate it in the downtown. It will take the place of Boll Furniture on the second floor. This is the same building that was purchased last week by Triana Energy founder Henry Harmon for $1.2 million. It is slated for remodeling into Class A office space. The investors are donating the second floor to the university.

This marks the first off-campus academic site for the university, and the second "higher education institution presence" in the downtown -- with West Virginia State University's Capitol Center Theater on Summers Street being the other one. The location of the program in the downtown would foster possibilities for cooperative education and internships. Fall 2008 would be the "target date" for opening, and could have 130 to 150 graduate students initially.

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Boll Furniture has been at 900 Virginia Street East (at the foot of the south Side Bridge) since 1974. The furniture store is going out of business. Triana will take control of the six-story, 100-year-old building on September 1.

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Triana Energy is actively involved with UC. The company drilled a natural gas well on the edge of Blackwell Field in March 2004, and provides the university with revenue. The company also helped with financing with UC purchased Watt Powell Park in November 2004. In 2005, Triana donated $1 million towards the renovation of Blackwell Field, which has since been renamed Triana Field.

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UC began offering an executive MBA in 1987, and offers an accelerated MBA for immediate graduates. The university then established the Entrepreneurship Center in 2002. In December 2006, UC announced the creation of Golden Eagle Ventures, with a goal of raising $2 million that will be invested in early stage West Virginia businesses that have "strong growth opportunities."

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Dow to raze office building

Dow to raze office building, by George Hohmann, Charleston Daily Mail, June 14, 2007

Building 701, the original office building at the South Charleston Technical Center from 1949, will be demolished. The demolition is part of a long-term business plan it is developing with West Virginia University for the technical center. The tear-down will reduce the overall cost of operating the campus. The building overlooks the Kanawha Turnpike, Interstate 64, the South Charleston rail yards, and the Union Carbide-Dow Chemical's South Charleston plant.

The five-story office and research structure contains 105,000 sq. ft. of space. There are three floors of laboratories and offices, an office penthouse and a full basement.

Representatives from WVU and Union Carbide Corp-Dow met with the building's tenants on April 12 and announced plans to tear down the building and move them to Building 740 -- a newer building from the 1960s -- and all relocation expenses are being paid by Union Carbide-Dow. Building 740 is five floors of laboratories, offices, and has a full basement -- with 130,000 sq. ft. of space.

Interior abatement work on Building 701 will begin on July 1, and exterior demolition will begin in the fall. The main tenant of Building 701 was Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center, which moved to the building in January 2005 and refurbished some of the labs.

In 2001, Dow Chemical bought Union Carbide, however, a down turn in the chemical industry occurred after the deal closed and the West Virginia operations went through many downsizings. Several buildings in the tech center were torn down in 2006, including Building 791 -- the cafeteria. In March 2006, Union Carbide announced that it was to donate 58 acres at the park to WVU, but it has not yet taken place. Dow is currently working on the transfer agreement, and the university would likely build an integrated campus at the park. WVU would relocate its Charleston extension and extended learning programs to the park, and would probably be called the "WVU Charleston Research Campus".

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Trial will put Kanawha's historic courtroom in spotlight (w/ photograph)

By Matthew Thompson, Charleston Daily Mail, July 3, 2007

Courthouse #4 in the Kanawha County Courthouse is unlike any other in use in the county. It is reminiscant of the classic courtrooms in the old television shows like Perry Mason and Matlock. It features 45-foot ornate plaster ceilings, arched doorways, eight chandeliers, and a wall of windows on its western side. And for the first time in 20 years, it will be the host of a criminal trial.

The courtroom was part of the original courthouse design in 1892. the facility underwent major expansions in 1917 and 1926. In 1981, to house the judicial system and ease courthouse crowding, the county began work on the seven-story Judicial Annex across Virginia Street. Courthouse #4 has not been used for a trial since 1983. Since then, it has been used for press conferences and memorial services for lawyers, and as a place to administer flu shots to county employees. In 1987, the former County Commissioner Doug Stump painted the walls and ceiling of the courtroom with help from county jail inmates, who also removed the drop ceilings, stripped paint to uncover original woodwork, repaired moisture damage, and recreated ornate arches behind the judge's bench. And in 2006, a $2.1 million, eight-year restoration project was completed on the courthouse itself. That included wiring and plumbing upgrades, new security systems, and updates to the handicapped accessible restrooms. On the exterior, the tile roof was replaced, the masonry and sealing restored, and the exterior lighting upgraded for security purposes. And even more recently, county crews installed new sound equipment, carpet, and seat cushions in Courtroom #4.

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Traffic change on Washington 11 days away

By Jim Balow, The Charleston Gazette, July 3, 2007

Washington Street, between Brooks Street and Leon Sullivan Way, will be converted from one-way to two-way traffic on July 14. The project has been one year in the making. City crews completed their part of the project this spring, by removing concrete "bubbles", installed new granite curving, and repaved the street. WVDOH will complete the rest. So far, they have installed a new traffic signal pole and mast arm for a new signal that will hang over Washington near Brooks. Pavement markers and signage will be installed on July 14.

A group of East End businesspeople, led by Bob Moses (auto dealer), asked city officials more than a year ago to make the street two-way. The current layout requires drivers to follow a series of one-way streets that can make it hard for customers to find businesses, and also delays ambulances en route to CAMC General Hospital.

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Besides all of the articles regarding the new two-way Washington Street (one block!)... here is something interesting regarding their premier riverfront park --

$2 million could put roof over part of Haddad Park

By Paul J. Nyden, Saturday Gazette-Mail [Charleston], July 14, 2007

Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WVa) announced on July 13 that he has added $2 million in federal legislation passed last week by a key Senate committee to help the city of Charleston make improvements to the Haddad Riverfront Park. It will be in the 2008 fiscal year

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Stately W.Va. Capitol bedeviled by repair woes

The Associated Press, July 28, 2007

West Virginia's 75-year-old state Capitol continues to sprout up new and costly problems as officials labor to repair and maintain the building and campus.

Just recently, when workers were scrubbing the 314,000 cubic foot exterior, the Indiana select buff limestone began to pull away from the Capitol's steel skeleton. Steel pins, holding up the facade, are deteriorating. The needed repairs will more than double the cleaning project's $1.5 million cost. It is only part of the five-year master plan for restoring the 54-acre Capitol Complex that already has $166 million budgeted in remaining costs.

One such renovation plans includes the Capitol's basement cafeteria, shut down last year after a poor health inspection. The state is set to award a contract for the renovation within the next few days, which will include an upgrade of switching and other gear that had vastly deteriorated. The original cost was $700,000 to $800,000, but that has balooned to more than $3 million.

The campus parking structure, at 788-spaces, was built only eight years ago. But upon recent inspection, engineering inspectors commented that it "looked like it was 25 years old." The inspectors randomly tested ten of the structural welds. Eight failed. The engineers stressed that the garage is safe, but repairs must begin immediately.

As for the interior of the Capitol, massive chandeliers that normally hang above the House and Senate Chambers and the Rotunda feature frayed wiring and decaying ties that hold thousands of pounds of rock crystal.

But there are some good news: 63 of the 64 campus elevators have been rebuilt. Four boilers from the complex steam plant will be replaced with five new units. Repairs to the ornate parapets were completed, restoring the gold color. New underground pipes were constructed to deliver heat and air conditioning to most buildings on the campus.

The renovated chiller plant is working so well that the pipes inside the Capitol now sweat from the colder water. The pipes will eventually be removed and replaced by air ducts.

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Parking garages scrutinized: 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.

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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.

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Historic district eyed for West Side

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.

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