CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In two weeks, City Council members are expected to adopt two plans that could change the face of Charleston over the next 10 to 20 years.
The new downtown redevelopment and comprehensive plans, more than 18 months in the making, were written by a pair of consulting companies after many meetings with a local steering committee and several public open houses.
Residents can read or download copies of the detailed plans at imaginecharleston.com under the "Exhibits" tab.
City officials haven't waited for the plans to be officially approved, though, said Planning Director Dan Vriendt.
"We did the urban agriculture ordinance," he said. "That was something that came up in the process, kind of like low-hanging fruit."
Approved by the council July 1, the ordinance sets out formal rules for what some folks have already been doing -- raising egg-laying hens or honeybees and planting community gardens.
In addition, engineers are drawing up final plans for a pair of east/west bike lanes along Kanawha Boulevard from Magic Island to Patrick Street, another Imagine Charleston concept unveiled at an open house last year. Construction could start next spring.
"We kind of feel like we've started taking action on this [plan]," Vriendt said. "The bike lanes -- that's something you can see." Changes in city code, like the urban agriculture rules, are less visible.
The comprehensive plan -- required by state law -- replaces an outdated 1996 version. The previous development guide for downtown, known as the American Cities plan, dates back to the early 1980s, when the opening of the Charleston Town Center mall was about to reshape retailing patterns.
The final versions of the new plans incorporate comments and suggestions the consultants gathered in June, after the release of draft versions. Besides an evening public meeting on the West Side, the consultants met with the steering committee's technical committees -- neighborhoods and land use, mobility and infrastructure, quality of life, downtown business and downtown livability, Vriendt said.
"At the public meeting there was some feedback, but most came from the subcommittees," he said. "None of it is big-ticket items, mainly clarifications."
One notable addition to the comprehensive plan is a list of eight key buildings considered ripe for redevelopment, called "signature implementation opportunities."
Several are vacant, like the Staats Hospital building on West Washington Street that West Side Main Street hopes to buy and rehab, and the long-empty Stone & Thomas department store downtown. Also included are JE Robins and Watts elementary schools, soon to be replaced by a new school.
The list also includes the building at 170-178 Summers St., at the corner of Brawley Walkway, which is privately owned and partly occupied. According to the plan, the property "has been significantly neglected and underutilized" but "is ideally situated for mixed-use development with retail space on the first floor . . . and residential or office space on the second floor."