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Statewide brownfields conference set for Sept. 11-12

Feb. 16, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON — Redeveloping old industrial sites, closed service stations or abandoned buildings, known as brownfields, can come with a variety of issues and costs, but in West Virginia there are centers dedicated to providing assistance and education with these potential problems.

The West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University will host the 2014 West Virginia Brownfields Conference on Sept. 11-12 at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.

“The thing about brownfields is it takes a lot of different people with a lot of different backgrounds to be able to redevelop the properties,” George Carico, director of the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University, said. “This conference invites that broad range of people so we can come together and learn from each other.”

Carico said one of the big problems with redevelopment is lack of education of the environmental problems of the sites. Even a seemingly safe abandoned house can host a slew of issues unknown to the developer and conferences like this help shine light on potential issues, he said.

Redevelopment goes beyond simply cleaning up a property and flipping it. Carico said it is more about economic development and that a vacant brownfield is not doing anyone any good.

Huntington is a happening place, and bringing in new and returning visitors is one of the conference’s goals, Carico said. To help make this goal a reality, conference event planners are teaming up with an organization that shares that same goal, the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We are always working on the outside area to bring people in to see all Huntington has to offer,” Tyson Compton, director of the Cabell-Huntington CVB, said. “People of all walks of life value authenticity, and redevelopment as opposed to completely tearing down and building something new, seems to be appreciated by everyone.”

Compton said Huntington’s variety of original architecture, notably the Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center, is something he has noticed both Huntington residents and tourists seem to love.

The event committee is seeking presenters for the conference. Example presentation topics include finance and funding mechanisms, liability and risk mitigation, site redevelopment strategies and other redevelopment-related ideas, case studies and practices.

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