CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A large-scale convenience store and gas station could soon rise on a former school site on Bigley Avenue.
First, though, local developers need to get the city to rezone some adjacent property and close a block of Alethia Street.
If that goes through -- the Municipal Planning Commission will take up the requests on Wednesday<co Sept. 5> -- developers will tear down the old Taft Elementary School, the former Wesley United Methodist Church and four nearby homes.
"It would be a convenience store, maybe a service station and a convenience store," said Jim Smith, president of O.V. Smith & Sons of Big Chimney. "It would be a revenue producer for the city."
Smith paid $180,000 to buy the Taft school in January 2001, a half year after it closed, the Gazette reported at the time. It was among a half-dozen or so grade schools the school board closed that year.
The handsome two-story brick building, its first-floor windows boarded up, fronts on both O'Dell and Bigley avenues. Motorists climbing the ramp to Interstate 77 north from O'Dell pass the school's main entrance. The property fills the eastern half of the block between Westmoreland Drive and Alethia Street.
"We've owned that Taft building for several years and needed to do something," Smith said. "Our company has been in the real estate business, building shopping centers, and haven't had an opportunity to do something with the Taft building."
Well known for its commercial development along the Elk River from Big Chimney to Clendenin, O.V. Smith & Sons also owns a shopping center at the Buckhannon exit of Interstate 79 along with properties in Georgia and Florida, he said.
Meanwhile, just across Alethia Street, owners of the now-closed Methodist church have been trying to sell their property.
"The boys at the church approached me," Smith said. "They own the church and a couple of homes, jumbled together there. I've got an offer to buy it if we could get it rezoned and the street closed. I could demo it and put some kind of development in there."