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Rogerson: Goal to begin clearing Richwood development area by year’s end

MORGANTOWN — After three years of research, discussion and planning, the reimagining and redevelopment of some 9.5 acres along Morgantown’s Richwood Avenue has reached the “action phase.” 

Morgantown Area Partnership CEO Russ Rogerson said the city is currently working to utilize some $700,000 available through the Willey, Spruce, Brockway TIF district to begin razing the 55 structures spread across the property. 

The goal, Rogerson explained during a public information session held Wednesday evening in the Woodburn Community Center, is to start bringing those structures down by the end of the year.  

With the exception of the former Richwood Grill (318 Richwood Ave.), those old homes formerly represented some 300 beds of student housing. 

Those days are gone. 

Jay Rogers, of Omni Associates, explained the vision of master developer Biafora Holdings is not stacks of bedrooms, gas stations and fast food, but an area adjacent to the city’s downtown focused on mixed use highlighting livability, walkability and sense of place. 

“They know the university isn’t looking to grow. There’s not a need for all these beds. The beds are out there,” Rogers said. “They also know there’s a need for something affordable for workforce and for young professionals and they know those type of people want to be in an area where they can walk and get coffee or walk and have dinner or go to a tap house or tavern.” 

Rogers said a great example of the vision for this project can be seen in Louisville, Kentucky’s Fourth Street. 

To that end, project planners have shifted the initial focus away from the planned unit development approach and will ask the city’s planning commission to consider rezoning the area to B-1 (neighborhood business) when it convenes this month.  

In the B-1 district, structures must be between two and four stories above street level but cannot be more than 40 feet in height. Structures can be mixed use but cannot be strictly residential in a B-1 district. 

Rogerson said it’s almost impossible to pull together nearly 10 contiguous acres of property near a city’s downtown, making this process critical to the city’s future. 

“We see this as the first, current, new development to provide the kind of things we all want to see and the things we like when we go to other places,” he said, adding “If we do this with input and conversation throughout, we feel strongly we’ll be more successful.” 

The property was purchased for $11.8 from the Giuliani family by the Monongalia County Development Authority in late 2020. MCDA falls under the Morgantown Area Partnership umbrella. 

Most of the redevelopment area falls within the city’s Willey, Spruce, Brockway TIF district, which was created in 2014.