BLUEFIELD, W.Va. — A piece of land off of I-77 exit 1, just north of the East River Mountain Tunnel going into Virginia, could soon see development.
Bluefield City Manager Dane Rideout explained to MetroNews affiliate WJLS the city recently put out a bid for a preliminary engineering report on the property. Essentially a feasibility study, the bid went to E.L. Robinson of Beckley to see what type of construction can occur on the 80 acre site located east of I-77 along John Nash Boulevard.
“Everybody’s talked about ‘oh, we need this and we need that’, but no one’s ever done the leg-work behind it,” said Rideout. “Make sure there’s no sinkholes and utilities that need to be relocated, that type of thing.”
He added it’s estimated that only between 12-15 acres of the land are developable due to a steep slope on the property. To start, the city would like to place a gas station on the property with the possibility of a compressed natural gas (CNG) component.
“Bluefield is in a unique position in that it sits on a high-pressure natural gas line. If you look at most of the trucking fleets around the country, they’re going to composite trucks and converting over to compressed natural gas. There’s only two compressed natural gas stations in the state of West Virginia.”
Those two CNG station locations are in Charleston and Bridgeport. Rideout hopes that idea, combined with a station for unleaded and diesel fuel with a convenience store, will help spur further growth.
“When you come up I-77 there’s sort of a hole and exit 1 is right in the middle of it that there’s no gas. The gas station once you get off exit 1 is almost four miles away. We’ll pursue that. We haven’t zoned it yet because we’re trying to figure out how that fits in.”
Appalachian Power Company recently presented a $12,500 grant to go toward the feasibility report. Rideout hopes the report will allow several pad sites for restaurants, hotels and retail on the remaining land.
The two main focuses of the project are to create jobs and provide an easy way for travelers to access gas, food and lodging as soon as they cross into West Virginia.
“The underlying theme I guess is we are trying to create and shape an environment which is conducive to economic development. It’s not just one thing, it’s many things put together to create jobs.”
Once the engineering report is finished, the city hopes to move forward with their master plan.