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East End park to feature walking track

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If you're hoping to take a stroll in the new East End Community Park, you may be in luck come spring. That's when the park's walking track is scheduled to open.The Charleston Urban Renewal Authority agreed Wednesday to lend financial support the project -- up to $45,000.David Gilmore, of GAI Consultants, said the circular track, made of compacted stone, will connect the shade pavilion and help "energize" the park by creating a grassy panel that visitors can use for various activities.The estimate doesn't include the cost of labor, which would have significantly increased costs for the track, Gilmore said. The city has agreed to provide labor for the construction of the track, which cuts the expense in half, he said.While this phase has yet to begin, Gilmore said East End residents are already taking ownership of the park, which is located off Dixie Street."It was interesting, even during the construction of this, I would go out sometimes after work and actually be questioned what I was doing out there in the park after hours," Gilmore said.CURA also approved a new façade grant application during Wednesday's meeting.The decision is part of an effort to make the application process not only easier, but to expand the program beyond Main Street districts to two urban renewal areas in the city. "It's definitely going to incentivize property and business owners to take advantage of this program more," said Ric Cavender, executive director of East End Main Street.Under the new guidelines, those pursuing the façade grants would have to provide upkeep to the properties for five years, as well as make certain their city taxes and fees are paid, according to an earlier Gazette report.While those guidelines existed before, they are now clearly stated in the application.Questions were raised, however, regarding CURA's budget and the program's addition of urban renewal areas on the West Side and downtown, which will double the number of areas eligible for funding.
"Once we sign off on this, how much are we committing to this program?" asked Commissioner Karen Haddad.Commissioners didn't have an immediate answer, but Haddad said budgeting $100,000 in the next fiscal year might be a good place to start -- $25,000 in matching funds for each area.In other business, plans to readopt West Side and Downtown/Old Charleston urban renewal areas are still underway. CURA Director Jim Edwards said the final hearing addressing them will be held Nov. 4.
CURA is also continuing its pursuit of the East End Historic District survey and nomination. Being a designated historic district makes homeowners and businesses eligible for tax credits and incentives for restoration projects, Edwards said.Stephanie Johnson, director of West Side Main Street, provided CURA with numbers from this year's Oktoberwest -- the organization's Bavarian-style celebration and fundraiser.The gathering brought in $6,000 from ticket sales and $30,000 from sponsorships sold prior to the event, she said. She expects it will net about $25,000.The state issued a notice for CURA to proceed with its West Side streetscape projects. The next phase is scheduled to take place on Hunt Avenue and head east toward West Avenue, Edwards said.In closed session, CURA commissioners discussed the organization's offer to purchase property located at 1601 Washington St. E."We're optimistic that the court's going to agree to sell the property to us in the next few weeks," Edwards said of the purchase.
Also, commissioners decided during closed session to enter into negotiations with a developer regarding the Chamberlain Court rowhouses in the East End.Reach Rachel Molenda at or 304-348-5102. 
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