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City planning visionary Brawley Tracy dies

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- R. Brawley Tracy, a longtime Charleston lawyer and real-estate developer who played a role in the construction of the Charleston Town Center Mall, died Friday at the Hubbard Hospice House. He was 84.

"Brawley was a real-estate lawyer who was very good at it. ... He was a very smart man and just a great adviser when it came to real estate," Charleston Mayor Danny Jones said Monday of Tracy, a former member of the city's Building Commission.

"Despite disagreements he had with people sometimes, I think he always had Charleston's best interests at heart. He knew my grandparents from the 1930s. He was pure Charleston, West Virginia," Jones said. "And I think Brawley really liked to work."

Tracy was born in Charleston in 1929, and graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor's degree in 1950 and a law degree in 1952.

Tracy was a member of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board from 1973 to 1988, and was one of the advocates for the Town Center Mall. He negotiated long-term leases between the mall and CURA, as well as between CURA and the Marriott hotel beside the mall.

"One thing I can say with certainty is that the reason the Urban Renewal Authority has the funding to do its work today is because Mr. Tracy negotiated long-term leases with the [Town Center] Mall and with the Marriott hotel," said Jim Edwards, who became CURA's executive director a couple of years ago.

"That is paying us today and will pay us long into the future," Edwards said. "Because of his wise negotiations, our agency has the funds today to reinvest in the more blighted areas of our community.

In a story for the 20th anniversary of the mall in 2003, Tracy took issue with those who said the mall had sucked the life out of downtown Charleston. Before the Town Center was built, some business developers were considering a mall in the area where Southridge Centre, the Shoppes at Trace Fork and Dudley Farms Plaza now sit on Corridor G.

"I think it's been a wonderful thing for this city," Tracy said of the mall. "By and large, it saved downtown. All you have to do is look at Huntington and Parkersburg," where malls were built in neighboring cities.

"He was particularly astute in the handling of the establishment of Charleston's Town Center. His role had to do with the financial end of it," said U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr.

"He was the one who had foresight to see how the city would benefit. It would not have been possible if he had not assisted in the contract language that permitted it" in the leases, Copenhaver said.

"Downtown Charleston would be a different place if it weren't for him. He worked both the legal trade and real estate," said Howard Swint, a property broker with West Virginia Commercial. "Charleston is a better place because Brawley Tracy was hard at work all those years."

"As a negotiator, he was as tough as nails. Everyone who had the opportunity to work with him appreciated that," Swint said.

"Brawley did a lot for CURA as a very astute lawyer. He also had a great memory and knew everybody in town," said Bobby Reishman, a Charleston City Council member whose brother, James, was Tracy's law partner.

"Brawley has done a tremendous amount of things for Charleston. He was instrumental in all the financing arrangements with the Marriott and parking garages where CURA gets its income.

"Brawley's mother and my mother's mother were sisters," Reishman said. "I knew him almost as an uncle. When my dad and mother were alive, he ate breakfast at our house almost every Sunday."

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said, "He was a good lawyer. He worked hard. To a large extent, he was from the old school. When he gave you his word, he kept his word.

"Brawley Tracy was also a great community supporter, but always kept that quiet. He will be sorely missed. He used to do a lot of work on property disputes. He was a great property lawyer and a very fine person," Carper said.

Wilson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements, which are incomplete.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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