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Editorial: West End initiatives could help transform area

May. 01, 2013 @ 08:30 PM

The pace of initiatives aimed at bolstering Huntington's West End is picking up -- a welcome sign toward progress.

The administration of Mayor Steve Williams this week announced its intent to make the Central City Market on 14th Street West a more vibrant destination to serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the Old Central City commercial district. Another project, spearheaded by the Old Central City Association and supported by the city financially, involves giving the 14th Street West underpass a facelift with a new mural and placing new wayfinder signs in the commercial district and near the 17th Street West exit of Interstate 64.

Both endeavors tie in well with an effort announced last year under former Mayor Kim Wolfe's administration to address other issues in the western part of the city. That program, called the River to Rail West End Project, involves a more intense policing effort to reduce crime, stricter code enforcement on such issues as weeds, trash and junked cars, and quicker removal of dilapidated housing.

These approaches could go a long way toward changing the direction of an area that a century ago was booming with industry but has since become stagnant and increasingly beset by crime and blight.

The fruit from one of the initiatives will be evident quickly. The mural project is scheduled to be done this month.

The other two represent longer-term strategies that if carried out successfully should aid the West End. Police and code enforcement officials already have demonstrated significant success with the same approach in the city's Fairfield West area, and it's reasonable to expect similar results in the West End.

The biggest unknown at this point is the outcome of the Central City Market initiative. The city-owned market, set in an area featuring several antique shops, now is home to a senior citizens center, Floyd's Flowers and the Cabell County Tailgate Farmer's Market. The latter two tenants operate late spring through October. Williams says he would like to see the facility improved and expanded, with the outdoor area operating year-around and the inside becoming like the Capitol Market in Charleston. The Charleston market's indoor section offers a restaurant and various shops featuring fresh meat, fish, produce, wines and chocolates.

Toward that end, city officials are looking to find another location for the senior citizens center to open up more room inside the market. The city also has informed the nonprofit organization now managing the building that it and any other interested organizations will have to submit proposals for managing the operation in the future -- a clear attempt to see what new ideas may exist to strengthen Central City Market. Meanwhile, the city hopes to spend $20,000 to make some repairs and purchase new equipment.

Williams correctly points out that it's logical for the city to focus improvement efforts on Central City Market because that's the one facility in the shopping district there that the city controls. It will be important going forward for the administration to work with all interested parties to find the best way to improve this important asset. A Central City Market with more offerings can start a welcome cycle: It could attract more foot traffic, which might spawn more businesses that in turn could bring even more shoppers to the area.



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