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Quarrier Street developer remains unknown

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Someone is definitely interested in building a multi-story, multi-use building on the site for the former Holley and Worthy hotels on Quarrier Street, but Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board members are taking their time negotiating with the as-yet unidentified developer, CURA Director Jim Edwards said.

Board members made no deal to sell the hotel property, and the mystery developer who submitted the only proposal for the Quarrier site nearly two weeks didn't attend CURA's monthly meeting Wednesday.

"There was just the one proposal; there was no need for a formal presentation because there's no competition," Edwards said later when asked about the developer's absence.

"The board is interested in that project and began the negotiation process. There's no urgency for it.

"If it comes to fruition it will be a very positive development for downtown as a whole and certainly for that site, and it will all be privately financed."

Edwards previously said the developer's plan meets the requirements listed in CURA's request for proposals -- at least 80,000 square feet, at least three stories, built out to the sidewalk with stores, restaurants or other active uses on the first floor.

In a related matter, Edwards said state urban renewal law does not require CURA to sell property at its appraised value. The question has come up several times in recent meetings, he said, as CURA has tried to sell downtown property for redevelopment.

Board members last month agreed to sell a small city-owned city block at Shrewsbury and Lewis streets below its appraised cost for proposed senior apartments. The owners of Pison Development argued prevailing rents wouldn't support a higher purchase price.

In other business, CURA board members:

* Agreed to donate another $20,000 to East End Main Street to fund the agency's façade grant program. Since 2006, Executive Director Ric Cavender said, East End businesses have matched nearly $45,000 of façade grants with $1.59 million of their own funds on fixing up their buildings. "So for every dollar, there's been $35 of private investment," he said.

* Took another step Wednesday toward expanding the West Side Community Renewal district. They agreed to seek proposals from outside consultants to survey a wide area extending east from the edge of the existing district at Hunt Avenue to the Elk River, and from the railroad tracks to the Kanawha River. It includes the former Elk City Urban Renewal District, a smaller area centered on the Washington Street business district, which expired in 2006.

"I don't expect all of that area would qualify," Edwards said. "It's always a question in collecting data: where do you stop? So it makes sense to include a large area and see what meets the blight standard."

To be included in urban renewal districts, state requires neighborhoods to meet standards of blight or slum conditions.

"In that area today we cannot spend any money," he said. "We can't even give a façade grant. That's why we're doing this."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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