Kingwood in running for Blueprint Community help

KINGWOOD — Kingwood is in the running to be a Blueprint Community.

Main Street Kingwood Director Mary Hibbs and Kingwood Councilwoman Michelle Whetsell  told council about the program last week.

The winners will be announced March 1. Nine communities applied and up to six will be approved, Hibbs said.

The Blueprint Communities  initiative was created by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh (FHLBank) in 2005. Since then 15 communities in West Virginia have participated in  the program

FHLBank is partnered with the West Virginia Community Development Hub (The Hub) on the program.

“Our goal really is to try and improve South Price Street, [including] finding something to do with the lot,” where the city recently had a building demolished, Hibbs said.

Among the items for discussion, Hibbs said, is moving the Veteran’s Plaza to South Price. The brick plaza is now beside the Preston County Chamber of Commerce building, which is for sale, Hibbs noted.

There’s no funding in the program the first year.

“What they do is come in and basically help develop a work plan with whatever our goal is,” Hibbs explained.

But the program would help Kingwood connect with funding sources and provide training, she said. It has the potential of being a 10-year program. Shinnston and Princeton are Blueprint Communities, Whetsell said.

“It’s going to be an enormous amount of work the first year,” Whetsell said, but has great potential.

On its web site, the Blueprint Communities lists benefits to participating communities as:

The opportunity to develop a consistent collaboration with diverse members and organizations within the community, and to develop strong relationships with other participating Blueprint Communities teams.

Developing an informed community revitalization strategy that contains a vision for the community’s future and encourages coordinated investments by public and private sources.

Eight sessions with  experts who will provide training and tools that  address the goals and needs outlined in the community revitalization strategy.

Mini-grant funding to support implementation of a project identified in the community revitalization strategy and access to funding information that leads to further investments.

Direct coaching support during the planning and training process in the first year,  then continued connection to resources, and support in overcoming challenges as needed.

Kingwood’s  team members are Hibbs; Whetsell; Cheryl Hayes of WesBanco; Lynn Housner, Preston County Arts Center; Kristy Ash, Preston County Chamber of Commerce director; Cindi Shockey, WVU associate professor; Robbie Baylor, Preston County Economic Development Authority director; Kim Liston, Preston Memorial Hospital community programs director; and Kari Moreno, Houses and More Real Estate.

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