Community, Government, Latest News, Monongalia County

Mon Commission puts $250,000 into Richwood redevelopment project

MORGANTOWN — After three years in process, the remaking of about 10 acres on the doorstep of downtown Morgantown is ready to begin in reality. 

And none too soon. 

The Monongalia County Development Authority, which purchased the property along Richwood Avenue for $11.8 million in 2020 and has shepherded the redevelopment project to the launch point, is feeling the strain. 

“From my seat on the development authority, we’ve been in a very-precarious financial position for the past year because of the drain on the development authority regarding this project — carrying it, making the loan payments until the project takes off,” Monongalia County Commission President Sean Sikora said Wednesday. 

So, the commission voted to provide $250,000 to help carry the project through the next few months while the MCDA completes a refinancing that will cover part of the cost to bring down 53 structures currently occupying the land. 

The city of Morgantown is also picking up some of that cost, providing $700,000 available through the Willey, Spruce, Brockway TIF district as well as up to $650,000 through a recently announced demolition grant from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. 

“Once that demolition takes place, we anticipate, in conjunction with the executive developer (Biafora Holdings), that the site prep will begin sometime in July,” MCDA Attorney Rocky Gianola said.  

The expectation, he continued, is that construction of new development will begin this year. 

According to numbers provided by Sikora, the county had previously provided $90,000 to the project as one of three public partners. WVU has put in about $180,000 thus far while the city is in for about $1.15 million to this point. 

All three members of the commission acknowledged the importance of the county’s investment in what is ultimately a city project. 

“I believe this is a major component to not only revitalize that area, but also, indirectly, revitalize downtown. It’s going to have a major effect,” Commissioner Tom Bloom said. 

Gianola said the economic impact will be a boon to everyone. 

“The developer that is working with us on this, even simple math, they have been in contact with other developers — regional and national developers — that are very excited about this project,” he said. “It could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars once it’s ultimately done.” 

According to Sikora, he serves as the commission’s representative on the MCDA, but doesn’t participate when the body takes up items that will ultimately come before the commission.   

In other news, the commission signed off on an application from Mylan Park for $100,000 from the county’s Coal Bed Methane Fund. 

According to the West Virginia Treasury Department, “West Virginia law provides for the collection and distribution of a severance tax on coal bed methane gas. A portion of this tax is dedicated for the use and benefit of economic development entities and county commissions within West Virginia.” 

The fund is managed by the MCDA, which reviewed the application and recommended it on to the commission. 

Terri Cutright, representing Mylan Park, explained the money will be used to help address the park’s lower entrance, which provides direct access to the Hazel & J.W. Ruby Community Center Event and Sports complexes, as well as the Mon County Center. 

Soon, Cutright explained, the park’s new KOA Campgrounds will be added to that list of amenities in the lower portion of the park. 

In March 2022, Gov. Jim Justice announced the KOA project would receive $3.75 million in Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation funding. 

Cutright said Mylan Park got word this week that it can proceed with the project. 

“That’s a very-significant project for the park,” she said, explaining a 2020 study projected the campground would generate $237,000 for the nonprofit Mylan Park Foundation in its first year in operation. 

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