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New Charleston agency to head EDGE Program, aiming to draw young talent

F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette-Mail file photo
The proposed site of the Charleston EDGE project, at the corner of Summers Street and Brawley Walkway, in August 2016.

Charleston’s new city agency, created to help manage a program dedicated to young adults to the city, could expand to include other projects, city officials say.

Last week, City Council members approved the creation of the Charleston Development Agency. The economic development agency will manage, facilitate and operate Charleston’s EDGE Program. EDGE, which stands for Early Dynamic Guidance Engagement, seeks to bring young talent to the city by providing them with affordable housing downtown.

For now the agency will only focus on EDGE, City Manager David Molgaard said. “The authority does have the ability to do other economic development projects,” he said.

If the authority’s role grows, staff members may be hired, but Molgaard said there’s no need at this point.

The authority’s board will serve as a manager for the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority-owned building on Summers Street that will house the EDGE project. The three-story building, at the corner of Brawley Walkway, was last home to B&B Loans.

Under the EDGE plan, the second and third floors of the building will have 12 one-bedroom apartments, an amenity deck and a meeting room that will be constructed on the building’s rooftop.

The city hopes sponsors will subsidize rents at the facilities for their employees. EDGE participants will participate in a three-year community leadership program facilitated by city employees.

The new agency will also determine which businesses will open in the retail space on the first floor of the building.

Construction costs are expected to be nearly $4.5 million. CURA has agreed to contribute $710,000 toward the costs of the project, while the city will contribute the remaining cost of the project, as long as the balance does not exceed $3.8 million.

ZMM Architects and Engineers and city employees are currently gutting the building. CURA will continue to own the building until the project is completed. At that point, CURA will transfer the property to the Charleston Development Agency.

Revenue for the authority will come from rents from the apartment units and the retail space. A major goal of the project is to show how affordable downtown housing can help bring more young people to Charleston.

According to U.S. Census estimates released in May, Charleston’s population continues to steadily decline.

The board must have between 12 and 21 members at all times, who will be volunteers. It will include at least three City Council members, three representatives from CURA, one business representative, one industry representative and one labor representative. All must be confirmed by the Charleston City Council. Molgaard and CURA Executive Director Ron Butlin will be ex-officio, nonvoting members.

Molgaard said that city employees have already begun compiling lists of potential candidates for the new positions, and the size of the board will depend on how many people Mayor Danny Jones wants to appoint.

Reach Ali Schmitz at ali.schmitz@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4843 or follow @SchmitzMedia on Twitter.

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