December 2016 | Business View Magazine

58 59 C harleston,West Virginia, located at the confluence of the Elk and Kanawha Rivers in Kanawha County, in the southwestern part of the state, is the state capital and its largest city. It was initially settled in the late 18th century, and was officially established as a town in 1794 with 35 residents. In 1817, coal was first discovered in the region, and for many years, coal was a mainstay of the region’s economy, along with a vibrant chemical industry that came along in the 20th century. Today, with a population of approximately 50,000, Charleston is attempting to rebuild its economic base, now that those two major economic drivers have all but disappeared from the scene. One of the organizations charged with aiding in the redevel- opment of the city’s economic drivers is the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority (CURA).Working with residents, businesses, other local non-profit groups, and city leaders, CURA provides fi- nancial and administrative assistance to support redevelopment activities throughout the city, specifically in the realm of prop- erty renewal.“We take on properties and areas that the private tHE CHArLEstOn urBAn rEnEWAL AutHOritY CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA revive, reStore, reBuild sector is unable to deal with because of physical and market conditions,” says Jim Edwards, the recently retired Executive Director of CURA.“We have purchased buildings that have sat vacant for, in some cases, decades.We eliminate some of the risk and some of the challenges that drive away private investors. And then, we seek proposals from investors and developers to renovate and put these buildings back into service. “Recently, in spite of the economic conditions we’re operating under, we’ve been successful at acquiring, improving, and getting properties back into private hands and redeveloped,” he con- tinues.“Our goal is to get them back into private hands as soon as possible; we’re not interested in holding property because it’s not generating economic activity then and not paying taxes. Historically, the agency was more of a traditional urban renewal agency that would locate a neighborhood or a building, or a group of buildings that were in poor condition and acquire and demolish them, and turn them into surface parking and not be aggressive about getting them back into private hands and devel-