The city of Huntington has completed the purchase of the ACF lot and complex located along 3rd Avenue east of the Marshall University campus.

HUNTINGTON — The Huntington Municipal Development Authority has completed the purchase of the former ACF Industries complex along 3rd Avenue, a tract eyed for redeveloping that area of the city, Mayor Steve Williams announced Friday.

HMDA finalized the sale of the approximately 42-acre former rail car manufacturing facility for $3.12 million. The complex includes property between 3rd Avenue and the Ohio River along 24th Street and a parking lot on the south side of 3rd Avenue.

Acquisition of the complex is central to the city’s plan to remake that area and surrounding properties into the Huntington Brownfields Innovation Zone, or H-BIZ.

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. HMDA also received a $2.7 million loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to help complete the purchase.

“Similar to how development of the Superblock into Pullman Square nearly 20 years ago transformed our downtown, the development of the ACF property and adjoining properties will transform Huntington into the economic gateway of the Appalachian region,” Williams said. “This is a game-changer for our community.”

HMDA previously hired Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates Inc., of Somerset, Pennsylvania, to draft several potential uses for the ACF complex. Redevelopment plans could include up to 1 million square feet of mixed-use commercial, retail, housing, advanced manufacturing, office space and medical expansion and/or research facilities.

Along with the ACF property, HMDA purchased and resold 8 acres of the nearby Flint Group Pigments property last year, located along the north side of 5th Avenue at 24th Street. HMDA members bought the property for $750,000 and resold it to Marshall University for $468,000. The property is planned as the future site of Marshall University’s 3,500-seat baseball stadium, which has a March 2021 completion date.

“With HMDA’s acquisition of the ACF property, along with Marshall University’s $22 million investment in the former Flint Group Pigments property for a baseball stadium that is now under construction, these abandoned sites are being reclaimed for new development potential,” said HMDA Executive Director Cathy Burns. “The ACF property is a beautiful piece of flat land, situated in the heart of the eastern portion of Huntington, and is one of the largest developable tracts of land in West Virginia within a municipality. The site has great visibility, convenient access and is located in a prime area near the Ohio River, Marshall University, medical facilities and the downtown.”

HMDA members had hoped to complete the sale of the ACF property late last year, but were delayed as the West Virginia Economic Development Authority required title insurance before disbursing funds. HMDA later worked with a title service agency to obtain the insurance and also obtained a quitclaim deed for several CSX railroad track spurs located on the property — a move to affirm that CSX had no rights to them.

Going forward, HMDA has assembled a team that will complete environmental testing and remediation on the property during the next six to 12 months, Burns said. Simultaneously, HMDA will work with local and state development agencies to market the property and attract job-creating investments.

Burns said previously that she had spoken with several parties interested in developing the complex, but did not name those parties. She would pursue re-selling the entire complex to one single developer rather than re-selling it in pieces to multiple companies or individuals, she said.

Burns said HMDA’s architects would work with Marshall’s architects so the future ACF property and the completed baseball stadium will complement one another.

“I tip my hat to Mayor Steve Williams and his team for taking another positive step and helping with the development of the land that will surround the state-of-the-art Marshall baseball stadium that will be constructed,” said Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick. “This is going to provide a significant economic jolt to our city and region, and benefit our university, campus and athletic department.”

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.

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