SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mayor Frank Mullens is like a kid on Christmas morning when you ask him about the newly secured Tax Increment Financing district for his city.
Gov. Jim Justice this week signed the legislation authorizing the creation of the development plan which Mullens believes will spur exciting activity in South Charleston.
“You think about somewhere between $200 and $300 million in construction over the next five years, that’s a game changer,” Mullens said. “We’re looking forward to it.”
The plan allows for the creation of a TIF district in a private development to be installed on the old FMC fly ash pond between MacCorkle Avenue and Interstate 64 in South Charleston. The plan was first proposed 10 years ago, but the timing with the economy wasn’t right. However, that original plan seemed to indicate the land preparation was feasible, but the mayor says other things are now also factoring into the equation.
“Now the real work gets started,” he said. “We’ve formed a workshop team with state and city officials to make sure we all stay on the same page as we try to coordinate the remediation of the fly ash pond with the Jefferson Road project. Right now the big thing we are waiting on is a geotech engineering report to be done on the pond itself.”
The Jefferson Road project is a Department of Highways initiative which will eliminate a huge bottleneck of traffic at the intersection of Jefferson Road and Kanawha Turnpike in South Charleston. Part of the push to gain approval from the city was a commitment to help fund part of the work, something which was extremely attractive to the cash strapped DOH. Under the agreement fill removed in the process of the road construction will be used in the process of draining the pond and preparing it for construction.
“Immediately you won’t see a lot of things. There will be a lot of behind the scenes things the public won’t see like permitting and engineering studies,” Mullens said. “I think you’ll start to see construction starting to happen in 2018.”
Once in place, the tax money in the development district will be diverted to a projected $150 million in public infrastructure and the attraction of the new development could spur an estimated $200 million in private investment.
The first priority for the TIF money will be to pay for the road project, develop part of the Regional Tech Park for future development, and extend city sewer service along Corridor G to the Lincoln County line.
“Those three are on the priority list,” Mullens said.
Future improvements for the city will be a new wellness center and educational facility. The mayor said the plans also call for eventual development of a new South Charleston Community Center since the current location is in a flood plain and has been underwater nine times.