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CURA seeks to expand West Side urban renewal district

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Members of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority agreed Wednesday to try to redesignate the Elk City commercial district on the West Side as an urban renewal district, possible as an extension of the West Side Community Renewal District.The idea sprang from a discussion earlier this year about providing more CURA money for the façade grant programs offered by the West Side and East End Main Street programs.CURA board members learned their grant money could be used only on the section of West Washington Street that lies within the CURA community renewal district -- from Maryland Street to beyond Patrick Street. West Side Main Street uses other funds for façade grants on buildings between Elk River and Maryland Street.That area was part of the Elk City Urban Renewal District, which expired in 2005, CURA Director Jim Edwards told board members at their monthly meeting Wednesday.After a brief discussion, board members unanimously voted to try to get that area designated once again as an urban renewal area."Probably the way to go about it is to expand the West Side district," Edwards said after the meeting. "I think they want me to work with the city and West Side Main Street."
While Edwards has not been through the process before in Charleston, he said he's been involved in creating and expanding community redevelopment areas in Florida."It's a similar process. You look for blight, dilapidated areas, to see if the area qualifies." The process also involves public hearings and meetings with several City Council committees, as well as approval by both CURA and City Council, he said.The boundaries of the district could differ from the previous district. "The data will tell us that, based on dilapidated and vacant properties," Edwards said. "We'd want to be sure to involve the remainder of Washington Street."The intent is to provide more tools for redevelopment. This allows us to invest in the area. There would be no new restrictions on property owners."CURA has had a bad reputation in the past, he acknowledged. "I think the reality of that has changed. It's not in the business of clearance anymore. It's more the Main Street approach of community renewal. It's not your father's CURA anymore."Reach Jim Balow at or 304-348-5102. 
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