By AJ HAMMOND
Community Development Director
Drive through downtown Shinnston and it is easy to see the landscape is changing.
The city is working with the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center as well as WVU in addressing neglected properties in our community.
The BAD (Brownfields, Abandoned, and Dilapidated) Buildings program takes an inventory of every property within the downtown sector. Once the inventory is completed, it is sent to WVU to begin the process of developing a comprehensive plan, serving as a blueprint for future development. Other cities are taking part in the program as well. Fairmont has identified 300 vacant or dilapidated buildings in a town of only about nine square miles.
The BAD Buildings Program is funded through a grant from the Benedum Foundation, a private non-profit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts for West Virginia University. Shinnston received a technical assistance grant in 2014 valued at $10,000 to address barriers to the reuse and redevelopment of abandoned and dilapidated buildings.
Anna Withrow is the project specialist and technical team leader for the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center. Withrow says, “A common thread that runs through all communities in West Virginia is the dilapidated properties within them. The spread of blight results in reduced property values, public safety hazards, and can be a barrier to economic development. Neglected properties affect not only a property owner, but the surrounding property owners, and the community as a whole.”
Katherine Garvey, WVU College of Law, estimates as many as 1 in 16 properties in West Virginia are vacant or abandoned. These properties deter economic development, increase crime, and create safety hazards. At the same time, neglected properties represent an opportunity for community revitalization. Worley is hopeful for the direction of the state through the BAD Buildings program, saying, “It is apparent that many communities have a desire to address these neglected properties. In the last few years, communities have been trying both traditional and innovative strategies to address neglected properties with promising results.”
Titled From Liability to Viability by the WVU School of Law, Shinnston is excited to do just that. The Shinnston Development Authority is currently taking an inventory of the BAD buildings in our community and will be working with WVU in completing a comprehensive plan. Any information on properties in Shinnston that need to be addressed can be sent to [email protected] or call (304) 592-5631.