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Council, commission approve agreement to begin Woodburn overhaul project

MORGANTOWN — Morgantown Mayor Ron Dulaney said the plan involving the Monongalia County Development Authority, WVU, Monongalia County and the city of Morgantown to overhaul at least 9.5 contiguous acres along Richwood Avenue, in Woodburn, is a tremendous opportunity to work collectively and deliver top-tier development.

“I think we need some wins. We need some collaborative wins,” Dulaney said on Wednesday prior to city council unanimously approving a collaboration agreement through which the city will commit $180,000 to be paid in equal installments over the next three years.

Earlier in the day, the Monongalia County Commission approved the same agreement, committing a total of $90,000 over three years.

The property in question was acquired by the Monongalia County Development Authority from the Giuliani family for $11.8 million.

Russ Rogerson is the president and CEO of the Morgantown Area Partnership. The MCDA is a part of that organization.

“Projects of this size and scope don’t come along every day and we’re very pleased to have this chance,” he said, envisioning “Mixed-used development, including housing of all sizes and shapes, but also importantly, activity and walkability both to the downtown, to the campus and to our trails and park systems.”

The project will likely unfold over the next two to three years with input from community as well as private developers, Rogerson said. He noted the next step will likely be working with the city to set up a planned unit development for the area.

He said the ultimate goal is to take aging college housing and turn it into an attractive, connected and contributing part of the city.

“I really appreciate your leadership, and the various groups that you work with in making something like this happen — that we could have this large of a parcel inside the downtown area and that we could have housing and businesses in a useful, functional, interconnected way,” Councilor Jenny Selin said.

According to the collaboration agreement, WVU will match the city in providing $180,000 over the next three years.

In other city news, council gave Interim City Manager Emily Muzzarelli the green light to apply for grant dollars that could help construct a bike and kayak rental facility at the revamped Walnut Street Landing.

Muzzarelli explained that the city would apply through the West Virginia Development Office for a federal Land and Water Conservation Grant totaling $100,000.

She explained the rental facility will cost up to $240,000 to construct, though some of the prep and design work was completed during the recently completed riverfront overhaul project.

Muzzarelli noted that if the grant application is successful, the needed matching funds for the project would come out of the city’s capital escrow budget.

Lastly, council approved amending the city’s 2020 Community Development Block Grant action plan to allocate $458,576 in additional CDBG funds released as a result of the CARES Act.

Those funds will be used to provide $200,000 to a rent and utility assistance program through the United Way as well as $200,000 for feeding programs and food pantry assistance and $55,000 for Meals on Wheels.