HUNTINGTON - Plans for how the city of Huntington can transform three post-industrial brownfield properties into usable and productive space were unveiled to the public Tuesday night during an open house at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center.
The proposed plans include the addition of a baseball field, residential units, a hotel and space for offices and commercial development in an area that encompasses 27th Street to 20th Street between 3rd Avenue and the Ohio River and includes the former Ingram Barge, the McGinnis property and the ACF complex.
These plans are the culmination of a year-long community planning process that has involved interactive workshops and other public outreach initiatives to collect input from residents, which has been the first step in the city's Brownfields Planning and Redevelopment Project.
Tuesday's open house was led by the consulting firm of Stromberg, Garrigan and Associates along with the Huntington Municipal Development Authority and the city.
Through the use of grant funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city enlisted the expertise of the firm that specializes in brownfield redevelopment plans in order to explore the potential for these properties.
While the plans presented by Sean Garrigan, of Stromberg, Garrigan and Associates, paint a picture of how the properties could be developed, Garrigan said it's important to keep in mind that nothing is guaranteed.
"What will happen will not look like this plan, which seems contrary to this effort, but without going through this effort you won't know what the opportunities or priorities are," he said.
In order to realize the full potential of not just the properties but the entire area, Garrigan said it's important to step back and identify how the new development can be woven into the existing area, meaning the areawide plan essentially serves as a guide for developers.
The proposed plan breaks the area into four development zones: University Park, Sport Complex Expansion, Foundry Center and Polymer Tech Center.
University Park development zone
The University Park zone encompasses 20th Street to 22nd Street on 3rd Avenue (across from the Joan C. Edwards Stadium) and extends several blocks to the railroad tracks.
Toward the back of the zone, behind Dot Hicks Field, sits the McGinnis property, which has served several purposes throughout the years, including as a toy warehouse, a pesticide reformulation facility and, most recently, as a metal recycling and salvage facility.
As the name of the zone suggests, Garrigan said this area would be used to enhance the appeal of Marshall University, which draws thousands for sporting events and academic advancements.
Garrigan said some of the ideal uses for this property would include a large hotel paired with a conference center overlooking the stadium as well as several places for parking, eating, shopping and office space.
Consuming the back half of the property is a baseball field, which has been a priority for many residents.
Tom Bell, executive director of the HMDA, said they have been in contact with potential developers for the baseball field.
"Nobody has signed the dotted line, but there is interest," Bell said.
Garrigan explained the baseball field would likely be developed privately, as opposed to the nearby Dot Hicks Field owned by Marshall University. The Thundering Herd baseball team could become a tenant at the potential field, he added.
Sport Complex Expansion development zone
Bell said he has also spoken with developers interested in assisting with the expansion of the Chris Cline Athletic Complex.
This zone is located to the right of the existing complex and proposes transforming the ACF parking lot into two multipurpose fields.
Foundry Center development zone
Across from this property is ACF, a manufacturer of railcars, railcar components and pressure vessels. The company encompasses the south side of 3rd Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets.
Unlike the other brownfield properties, some of ACF's buildings are operational, though with minimal staffing.
With this property, Garrigan showed residents the potential for an apartment complex with more than 100 units. Garrigan said he could also see the area being used for commercial/retail, office space and industrial as well as several areas set aside for open green space.
Toward the back of the property, on the opposite side of the floodwall, Garrigan showed plans of a possible restaurant and park area along the Ohio River.
Polymer Tech Center
The final zone is located along the Ohio River in Huntington's Highlawn neighborhood from 25th Street to 27th Street, also known as the Ingram Barge.
This 70-plus acreage of contiguous brownfield sites was operated by the Ingram Marine Group and served as a barge terminal and coal dock facility until 2009.
Huntington-based polymer conversion company Rubberlite Inc. has expressed interest in building an advanced research and development center.
The areawide plan shows there is also room for additional office space as well as the potential to extend the city's Paul Ambrose Trail for Health along the river side.
Interwoven among each zone are new roadways and traffic patterns, which Garrigan said would accommodate the area's expected growth.
The proposed plan also includes possibles solutions to assist with stormwater management and alleviate flooding.
Now that a plan has been developed and the potential of the area pointed out, Garrigan said the next step is to find developers who will help bring the plan to life.
It is likely the HMDA will play a big role in this phase of the process.
Bell said the board is in the process of gaining ownership of the three brownfield properties, likely on an interim basis, in order to clean up the properties for their desired use and sell it to developers.
"The last thing we want to do is be in the real estate business," he said. "But we can help with vision. We can help provide grants. HMDA's role is not development. It's facilitating the creation of jobs."
The proposed plans were made public during a presentation Tuesday night at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center, at which members of the Highlawn community heard the proposals outright for the first time.
Highlawn residents Greg Miller and Judy Taylor assessed the plans were headed in the right direction, but were wary of just what kind of industry, described as "moderate," would be headed to the neighborhood.
"There's some things that we've got to look at and tweak, and I think Garrigan alluded to that," Miller said.
Both were receptive to the idea of a long-awaited downtown baseball stadium, with Miller adding it creates another venue for events other than ball games, like outdoor concerts.