Editor's note: This is the 183rd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — In the 1960s and '70s, many American cities embarked on downtown urban renewal projects. Joining the trend, the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority acquired a big slice of the city's downtown and leveled much of it.
The downtown makeover spawned a number of notable projects, including a new Cabell County Library, a new building for the First Huntington National Bank (today's J.P. Morgan Chase), Harris Riverfront Park and a new Red Cross Center, among others. But urban renewal's envisioned centerpiece a nine-acre tract bounded by 8th Street, the north side of 3rd Avenue, 10th Street and Veterans Memorial Boulevard would remain a weed-infested parking lot for 30 years, defying all efforts to develop it.
In 1970, when the buildings were leveled on what became known as the "Superblock," a nationally known developer spent two years unsuccessfully seeking tenants for an indoor shopping mall, then filed for bankruptcy
In 1977, the Huntington Civic Center (today's Big Sandy Superstore Arena) was constructed on the western end of the Superblock, but that still left most of the tract vacant.
The next year a group of local entrepreneurs proposed building a hotel, retail stores, an office building and even a TV station. It didn't happen. In 1983, a national firm leased the Superblock and starting seeking tenants. After two years, it gave up. An off-track betting casino was proposed. It didn't happen. A 1987 plan for a 20-story office tower and a proposed outlet mall were equally unsuccessful..
In 1998, a Holiday Inn opened adjacent to the Big Sandy Arena but most of the Superblock remained stubbornly vacant.
When talk started about yet another Superblock development many people found it difficult to get excited. They'd been disappointed too many times, but this time the talk became reality. And when Pullman Square was dedicated in 2004, it put a long-overdue end to the Superblock saga.