Mayor and local property evaluator spar over value of South Charleston development

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As construction continues on the Park Place shopping center in South Charleston, one local real estate broker isn’t satisfied the city made the best series of decisions on the plan.

Frank Mullens

The new development is happening on the former FMC fly ash pond just off the MacCorkle Avenue exit of Interstate 64.

During an appearance Monday on 580-Live on WCHS Radio, South Charleston Mayor Frank Mullens touted the economic development of the project, but Howard Swint, a local property broker called in to challenge the mayor’s claims about the success of the project.

“You have a government agency borrowing money from the future to enter a saturated retail market to only take jobs and business away from other Kanawha and Putnam County business,” Swint argued.

Mullens confirmed the city paid $6.5 million for the property and invested another $30 million in the development. He also said the land for Menards, the anchor retailer on the project, was sold for $7 million.

Swint argued it was a bad deal.

“That’s 6.5 million for an industrial wasteland that nobody in their right mind is going to build on because of the requirement to put footers and pylons all the way down to the bedrock. You can put a parking lot on it, but you can’t build a building on it for all intents and purposes economically,” Swint said.

Mullens disagreed.

“That’s not true Howard. Obviously that’s not true and that’s what the remediation process has been for. There’s a lot of engineering that’s gone into that pond and obviously all of these stores are going to be built. I know you’ve brought this up before and somehow you don’t think this thing is going to happen, but it’s going to happen, I can promise you that,” said Mullens.

Mullens also noted Swint showed up at the city council meeting soon after the project was first announced and offered high praise for the idea.

“That was because of the rare earth elements heavy yield as opposed to heavy metals. But I was also representing the Tech Park,” Swint said. “Now I’m a private citizen asking for information on this project. I’ve determined based on my own land-yield analysis, competitive market analysis, and absorption rate analysis that you’re going to have four, five, or six times the amount of money in that project than the market will bear.”

“We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that,” said Mullens.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the project. Dirt continues to be dumped where the pond used to be. There’s construction of a turning lane along MacCorkle Ave. (U.S. 60) and a new Chick-fil-A is under roof and scheduled to open next year.


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