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Published: Thursday, October 11, 2007
Page: 1C

The grim numbers will come as no surprise to West Side residents: nearly half of reported family income from Social Security or public assistance; dilapidated housing, more than half of which is rental property.

Jeff Nelsen, a landscape architect with the Floyd Browne Group, told Charleston Urban Renewal Authority board members Wednesday the figures support his recommendation to greatly expand the size of the Washington Street West Urban Renewal Area.

CURA officials, who approved the plan on Wednesday, hired Nelsen last year after West Side City Council members began a drive to expand the urban renewal area.

The current district, which follows the West Washington Street corridor from Russell Street to a block past Patrick Street, was adopted in 1992. Council members proposed to expand the area to include the mostly residential neighborhood between Hunt Avenue and Patrick Street, and from Washington Street to the Kanawha River.

Nelsen told CURA members he did a "windshield survey" of the larger area, examining buildings from the outside.

"We found 883 buildings. Of these, 81 percent are residential, 14 percent are commercial and the other 5 percent are institutional or community use.

"Among the residential buildings, we found about 20 percent were deficient. We were surprised there were not more. As a result, we took that and compared Census data. That gave us additional concerns.

"Forty-six percent of the properties are owner-occupied, which means 54 percent are rental."

Among other findings:

s The median household income in the area was 62 percent of the median for the entire city.

s There is no public recreation or green space in the area aside from Cabell Field and two other sites.

s During the last four years, the city tore down 33 buildings in the area and cited 94 others - more than one in nine - for property maintenance issues.

CURA board members agreed to support the enlarged district plan. The matter now goes to City Council.

In other business Wednesday, CURA members:

s Agreed to a counter-offer from Gregory Edwards, owner of a vacant lot at 1434 W. Washington St., to sell the property to CURA for $5,000. Edwards rejected a previous offer from CURA for $2,700, CURA Director Pat Brown said. The lot is beside three other lots at the corner of Barton Street that a West Side couple gave to CURA for a possible park or green space.

s Learned that a family group led by Evelyn DiTrapano accepted an offer from CURA to buy their property at 1424-26 Washington St. E. for $105,000. The site is beside the former Strait's laundry, which CURA also bought.

s Agreed to extend the deadline to Dec. 17 for law firm Bailey & Glasser to buy the former McCrory department store building on Capitol Street. The firm signed a redevelopment contract with CURA for the property in November and has now received three extensions beyond the original April 17 date.

The buyers are waiting for the National Park Service to approve their application for federal historic preservation tax credits, which are crucial for the project financing, Brown said.

To contact staff writer Jim Balow, use e-mail or call 348-5102.

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