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UC plans Triana townhouses

Chris Dorst
University of Charleston President Ed Welch hopes to build a group of duplex two-story townhouses along the riverfront here at the edge of the Triana Field property to improve the site and generate income for the school.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Reviving an idea shelved four years ago, University of Charleston leaders once again hope to build upscale housing along the Kanawha riverfront at Triana Field.

They've scrapped the twin five-story condominium buildings, however, in favor of up to seven duplex townhouses.

"We're having some conversations with individuals who were interested in the condominiums before, to see whether they'd be interested in townhouses," UC President Ed Welch said Friday.

UC leaders started exploring the idea of building condos along the river as early as 2005. They hired Associated Architects to draw up plans and talked to neighbors.

In 2007, they unveiled revised designs and started taking deposits for the 18 units, which were to sell for between $600,000 to more than $1 million. But the economy tanked, and Welch put the plans on the shelf in 2009.

The townhouses could be built in stages, Welch said.

"The advantage of doing that was, before, we had to identify 15 people who wanted to do the same thing at the same time, and then the economy deteriorated. We needed 13 or 14 to go forward; we had 10. We got very close.

"Now we can do something with a smaller number of people," he said. "The stock market is coming back. Some people have come back, asking 'are you going to do anything.' We've been having conversations. They can work with an architect to see what it would cost to build what they'd like.

"There are some people very interested in learning more and having a conversation with the architects ...

"I'm guessing the townhouses would have 2,500 to 3,000 square feet." At an estimated building cost of $200 per square foot, they might sell for between $500,000 and $600,000, "depending on lots of individual decisions on furnishings, what kind of kitchen they want. Some might choose to build an elevator."

Residents won't buy the land under their homes, however, Welch said.

"The concept will be a land lease. The university will continue to own the property. The university would keep up the property, externally. We would have to flesh out the details of responsibility." Owners would likely join an owners' association and pay monthly fees, like condo owners, for shared services.

While he conceded the project is outside the main mission of the university, Welch said it serves at least two purposes.

"Revenue. That's why you'd want a land lease."

It also improves a neglected piece of prime riverfront property.

"It's a strip of land that's not now particularly attractive," he said. "There are trees, and underneath the trees it looks like roughage. And it wouldn't have any effect on the athletic field."

UC created the area -- formerly Blackwell Field, now Triana Field -- probably in the 1950s when it filled in the lower end of South Ruffner, Welch said.

"There was a ditch where the creek came out from the hills, so the university put in a 16-foot-diameter pipe and created an athletic field."

Welch said there's room for about five duplex units along the riverfront and another one or two behind them.

"The exteriors will look very, very nice," he said. "We want it to be appealing to the river and the community. The inside is up to the individuals, what they desire best."

For purchase information, contact Laura Wellstead at 304-357-4713.

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


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