CHESTER - According to Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, Chester is "a gem in the Northern Panhandle."
The progress being made in the planned demolition and redevelopment of the site of the defunct Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery by the BDC, the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center and the Rock Springs Riverfront Redevelopment Committee can only make Chester shine brighter, according to officials.
Ford and BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six recently collaborated with Angela Campbell and Kevin Leyden from West Virginia University, which resulted in a $5,000 grant from the West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative. The collaborative dispensed four of the grants to competitors from throughout the state.
The presentation was shown to those at the meeting of the Rock Springs Riverfront Redevelopment Committee on Monday. The presentation highlighted the interest of the committee in redeveloping the site in a way that would, first and foremost, create as many jobs as possible for the area.
Ford expressed multiple times at Monday night's meeting that the main goal of the redevelopment of the site is to create jobs as well as to invigorate the city and surrounding community. Some of the ideas presented included a mixture of historic neighborhoods, a walkable downtown shopping area and a riverwalk/riverfront area with offices and flex-space. All of the ideas presented primarily focused on economic development.
According to Ford, one of the most important things to consider when planning the redevelopment of the site is that whatever is built creates a "sense of place" and provides those who visit it with an inviting environment and makes those individuals want to return and possibly live in the area.
Ford wants to embrace the river in the redevelopment planning. He believes that many communities that are placed near the river ignore in completely.
"Most communities have their backs to the river. We should use the river as our front door," said Ford.
As far as the demolition of the remains of the TS&T pottery, Ford reported the BDC has received an undisclosed number of applications for demolition. Though he was not permitted to say how many applications they had received, he said they are "very satisfied" with the applicants.
Also, the committee was introduced to Alex Baldwin and Orin Burke, two landscape architecture students from WVU who will be working for the committee as a part of their capstone course work.
Both students will be working with their advising professor, Angela Campbell, from the landscape architecture department at WVU.
The students will do a walk-through of the property prior to demolition and will attempt to attend as many committee meetings as their school schedules allow.
The next meeting of the Rock Springs Riverfront Redevelopment Committee is 7 p.m. on March in the gymnasium of the City Building.