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'Changes coming,' Kanawha City residents told

Lawrence Pierce
Construction continues at CAMC's new David Lee Cancer Center along MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City. The project's progress was among the topics being discussed Thursday evening during a meeting of the Kanawha City Community Association at Westminster Presbyterian Church.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha City residents packed into the basement of Westminster Presbyterian Church to hear about progress on a new center to benefit cancer patients and changes to the community's main thoroughfare.

This and other community projects were discussed Thursday evening at the Kanawha City Community Association's annual meeting.

"Stay tuned -- there are lots of changes coming," said Rick Burka, Association president.

Consultants from GAI talked about ways to reconnect Kanawha City neighborhoods to its main street, MacCorkle Avenue, while Michael Browning gave an update on CAMC's new Cancer Center.

David Gilmore, senior land development services manager with GAI Consultants, presented ideas to get Kanawha City more pedestrian friendly and greener.

"We started to look backward before we could move forward," Gilmore said.

He reminded the crowd that when MacCorkle Avenue was constructed it was the main route from the southern coalfields to the capital city without an interstate system or turnpike.

"It [MacCorkle] doesn't need to be a freeway, and that's what we're trying to get it back to," Gilmore said.

For the last year, GAI Consultants brainstormed with business owners, city officials and community members about what they would like Kanawha City to look like. They focused on the areas' culture, environmental makeup, topography and transportation.

Gilmore presented ideas rather than a definitive construction plan. The hope is Charleston City Council takes the ideas from the presentation to secure grant money to give the concepts legs.

"Kanawha City is lucky, it is one of the few communities that's flat," Gilmore said. "It really frees us up to do a lot of interesting things."

The MacCorkle Avenue Redesign Project would look to break Kanawha City's main corridor from CAMC Memorial Hospital down to the shopping area at 57th Street into districts.

Each district would focus on its unique attributes as professional or medical. Gilmore said the districts could easily be achieved with some additional zoning code changes.

By reducing the size of MacCorkle Avenue, the redesign project would look to increase the size of sidewalks, replace current "industrial-looking" streetlights with more residential-style lights, add trees along the roadway with additional green space projects and modify some parking.

The hope is to have consistency throughout the entire corridor.

"You don't realize how much room you actually have until you get into planning," Gilmore said. "This [the redesign plan] will give them an excellent blueprint for the next 20 years to chase and secure funds."

Without a plan, you cannot apply for grants, Gilmore said. The ideas would be presented to City Council in the near future.

"It's nothing till it's funded," Burka said.

Michael Browning, CAMC director of project management, said CAMC's three-story, state-of-the-art healthcare center is moving forward as planned.

The center is expected to begin accepting patients in January 2015.

"The donors have been the biggest part of this project," Browning said.

He announced the center's proposed "power of many" donor wall. The project is still in the works but looks to piece together the donors who made the center possible.

The center looks to be a one-stop shop for treatment. Browning said without the center, patients would wait two to three months before seeing an oncologist.

With additional office space, new doctors and a new center, Browning said they hope to see the time it takes to see a doctor decrease. He also said the new state-of-the-art facility will help attract new top-notch doctors to CAMC.

The center will have only outpatient rooms. Patients needing additional treatment would be transported to supporting hospitals.

Browning added that those driving by the cancer center will now see that steel beams have gone up.

Additionally, officials involved with the cancer center are embracing a revamping of MacCorkle Avenue.

"We really liked the concept and enjoyed working with GAI," Browning said.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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