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City of Huntington may sell lot for project

Posted on Jul 22, 2015 by Trish Smith

Author: Ben Fields, Herald-Dispatch

Jul. 21, 2015 @ 10:01 PM

HUNTINGTON - The Huntington Municipal Development Authority is entering negotiations to sell a parking lot at 4th Avenue and 8th Street with the implication that redevelopment of most of the 800 block of 3rd Avenue will follow.

Capital Venture Corp. presented its plan during a two-hour executive session Monday, with partner Jim Weiler - also a member of the HMDA board - laying out a $6.65 million transformation of the block space, with $2.1 million in financing already secured.

Perhaps more important, according to documents submitted to HMDA and provided to The Herald-Dispatch by Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Allied Logistics - which has owned and operated the properties on 3rd Avenue between 8th and 9th streets for decades - is willing to sell.

Most of those properties, including Whiskey Rocks, Rum Runners, the former J.C. Penney Building and the Bazaar Building, are vacant.

Capital Venture's plan would transform those properties, a total of 97,000 square feet, into a mix of office space, retail and high-end residences.

It would not impact existing restaurants Taste of Asia or the Marshall Hall of Fame Cafe. In fact, Taste of Asia operator Ken Chen wrote a letter to the HMDA board supporting the project.

The development would also include green spaces and a more open connection between 3rd and 4th avenues.

In its packet submitted to the HMDA board, Capital Venture included letters from one business already wanting to relocate its office downtown provided the parking lot is available, and other businesses in the same area that support the development plan.

Robert Fuller, a member of the accounting firm Hayflich CPAs, wrote to the board that his company has been looking at relocating downtown, and has been working with Capital Ventures on a downtown site. Fuller wrote he was impressed with the group's plan, and said a lack of parking is what drove the business out of city limits 20 years ago.

"The importance of this parking lot to the development cannot be overstated," Phil Nelson, Weiler's partner at Capital Venture, wrote in an email to the HMDA board.

The lot is one of four that Huntington City Council recently approved for transfer to HMDA for the expressed purpose of downtown development around those sites.

"This is exactly why we moved these lots to HMDA," said Williams, who is also a HMDA board member. "So these things can start happening."

The city government cannot negotiate the purchase or sale of public property to private interests, which is why HMDA was

created.

The board unanimously approved authorizing Bell to negotiate the sale of the lot, with Weiler abstaining along with J. Roger Smith. Smith had a conflict of interest as a board member with First Sentry Bank, which is providing the $2.1 million for the first phase of the project.

The first phase would involve renovating the parking lot and the building at 801 3rd Avenue, most recently home to the Fun Factory and a seasonal haunted house.

The HMDA board also met with downtown developer Shane Radcliff in executive session to hear his proposal for the parking lot at 4th Avenue and 8th Street.

While the board did not move to have Bell negotiate with Radcliff on the site, board member and Huntington Fire Chief Carl Eastham did make a motion that was passed to give Bell the authority to enter negotiations on other sites with other developers.

"We called (Radcliff) back in to see if developing one of the other sites was something that would interest him, and he said yes," Williams said.

Other lots transferred to HMDA include the parking lot on 10th Avenue near the intersection with Veterans Memorial Boulevard, 4th Avenue and 12th Street, and 6th Avenue behind the Federal Building.


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