HUNTINGTON — Progress is being made on plans to redevelop the former ACF Industries property in Huntington’s Highlawn neighborhood, city officials announced Wednesday.
Preliminary environmental tests on the 37 acres of former ACF property on the north side of 3rd Avenue have shown promising initial results, which include a lack of significant environmental contamination on key portions of the former rail car manufacturing facility, according to Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) Executive Director Cathy Burns.
“The initial reports came back better than we anticipated, and we will resume environmental testing in October,” Burns said.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said he was pleased with both the environmental testing results and the progress that is being made to align the site to become the economic gateway of the Appalachian region.
“This will be a game-changer for our community,” Williams said.
Williams says he will announce the creation of a task force this fall with senior leaders from the city of Huntington, HMDA, Marshall University, Huntington Area Development Council, Mountain Health, West Virginia Development Office, Advantage Valley and other agencies to consider best strategies for bringing innovation- and knowledge-sector job development to the former ACF site.
The conceptual plan for the redevelopment of the 37-acre parcel of the former ACF site envisions 700,000 square feet of mixed-use development, including up to 400,000 square feet of commercial space, lab space, research and development space, and space geared toward health care-based and knowledge-sector facilities, officials said following the purchase of the property.
HMDA added that it has identified funding to conduct a market feasibility and business attraction study this fall as well as funding to prepare for roadway, stormwater, sidewalk, landscaping, lighting and signage improvements along 3rd Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets.
The 5-acre parking lot on the south side of 3rd Avenue has completed the required environmental testing, the results of which found no contamination and deemed the property acceptable and ready for all types of development, officials said. HMDA is now marketing the parking lot for commercial or residential use.
“The parking lot is directly adjacent to the property where Marshall University will construct a baseball stadium, so we’re looking for development that would complement a baseball stadium,” Burns said. “Connectivity between those two parcels as well as between the parking lot and the former ACF site is also important, which is why we are focused on upgrades that take into account walkability and greenspace.”
The city announced the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission has dedicated $250,000 in transportation grant funds for design and engineering work of a “complete street” upgrade on 3rd Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets. The preparation work will include designs for access points to both parcels of the former ACF property, sidewalk improvements, lighting improvements, landscaping and stormwater management.
HMDA purchased the property Jan. 30 for $3.125 million. Acquisition of the complex is central to the city’s plan to remake that area and surrounding properties into the Huntington Business Innovation Zone (H-BIZ). The ACF property is part of more than 75 acres of former industrial property, which is part of the H-BIZ plan.
Funding for the purchase comes partly from a $3 million grand prize that city leaders won in the America’s Best Communities competition in 2017, which included the H-BIZ plan. HMDA also received a $2.7 million loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to help complete the purchase.