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West Side losing an accomplished leader

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After four years of revitalization work on Charleston's West Side, Patricia McGill is retiring. Wednesday will be the last day of work for McGill, the executive director of West Side Main Street.

Jenny Fertig, program leader for Community and Economic Development at the West Virginia State University Extension Office, which oversees WSMS, said McGill has been an asset to the program.

"Her administrative expertise was invaluable in getting this new organization structured and operating in a sound manner," Fertig said. "Her personal passion for the revitalization of the West Side has translated into WSMS projects that are making visible and important contributions to the community-led revitalization."

West Side Main Street can boast of a long list of achievements from the past few years, McGill said.

"I think probably the biggest accomplishments are getting new businesses to relocate to the West Side," McGill said.

"This has been a deteriorated and blighted area for a number of years. We're starting to be able to recruit businesses and 20 new businesses have relocated to the West Side in the past three years."

McGill said she's also proud of the two public art projects the program completed. One art project was a tile mural in the 1500 block of Washington Street West. Community residents and a professional artist painted the 700 small tiles in the mural.

The other was the Peer to Pier project, in which local artists, as a part of FestivALL, painted some of the columns that support the interstate at Washington Street West and Pennsylvania Avenue.

A native of Charleston, McGill said she's lived away from the area, but always finds her way back.

"I keep coming back," she said. "I think I'm going to stay here now that I'm retiring. I love it here."

A West Side resident, McGill said she wanted to be a part of the Main Street program because she had always enjoyed community development.

"It's something that's a local investment," McGill said. "It's community-driven."

The organization has nearly 200 volunteers working on various projects and events throughout the year.

While the West Side has come a long way, there's still plenty more to do, McGill said.

The Main Street program works in increments, she said. It's a slow pace that's often discouraging for people, she said.

The nonprofit has a five-year plan for a streetscape project. Next on the list is the middle section of Washington Street, from Beatrice Street to Maryland Avenue. The streetscape plan depends on federal funding, which is often difficult to come by these days, she said.

West Side Main Street is also working with the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board members to put a dog park in one of CURA's vacant lots. It is also working to put a farmers market in a vacant lot at Beatrice and Washington. WSMS did a pilot project last year for the farmers market. This year the program received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the farmers market.

Fertig said the extension office has worked with the WSMS board to finalize a job description and they plan to post the position by mid-March. Those interested in applying will be able to find the posting at www.westsidemainstreet.org.

"I hope people continue to support the organization," McGill said. "What they're doing is really important and the revitalization of the West Side is an important activity. I hope people will stay energized in it. I think we've made really good progress and I'd like to see that continue."

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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