Huntington Mayor Steve Williams announced Friday that the Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) has purchased the former ACF Industries property in the city’s Highlawn neighborhood.
The HMDA finalized the acquisition of the former rail car manufacturing facility, which is approximately 42 acres and includes the property between 3rd Avenue and the Ohio River along 24th Street and also the parking lot on the south side of 3rd Avenue, for $3.125 million on Jan. 30.
Funding for the acquisition comes from HMDA coffers. The HMDA received a $2.7 million loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to help complete the purchase.
The ACF property is part of more than 75 acres of former industrial property in Highlawn that is planned for transformation into mixed-use development space known as the Highlawn Business Innovation Zone (H-BIZ). H-BIZ also was a key component of the winning plan that city leaders submitted to the America’s Best Communities competition. Huntington was named the winner of the nationwide competition and the recipient of a $3 million grand prize in April 2017.
“Similar to how development of the Superblock into Pullman Square nearly 20 years ago transformed our downtown, the development of the ACF property and adjoining properties will transform Huntington into the economic gateway of the Appalachian region,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “This is a game-changer for our community.”
Potential redevelopment plans for the ACF property include 1 million square feet of mixed-use commercial, retail, housing, advanced manufacturing, office space and medical expansion and/or research facilities.
Development of the Highlawn Business Innovation Zone began in February 2019 when the Municipal Development Authority purchased approximately 8 acres of the former Flint Group Pigments property, located on the north side of 5th Avenue at 24th Street. Most of the funding for the purchase came from America’s Best Communities winnings. The Municipal Development Authority then sold the property to Marshall University to build a baseball stadium.
“With HMDA’s acquisition of the ACF property, along with Marshall University’s $22 million investment in the former Flint Group Pigments property for a baseball stadium that is now under construction, these abandoned sites are being reclaimed for new development potential,” HMDA Executive Director Cathy Burns said. “The ACF property is a beautiful piece of flat land, situated in the heart of the eastern portion of Huntington, and is one of the largest developable tracts of land in West Virginia within a municipality. The site has great visibility, convenient access and is located in a prime area near the Ohio River, Marshall University, medical facilities and the downtown.”
“This is another exciting development for Huntington and the Highlawn neighborhood,” Marshall Director of Athletics Mike Hamrick said. “I tip my hat to Mayor Steve Williams and his team for taking another positive step and helping with the development of the land that will surround the state-of-the-art Marshall baseball stadium that will be constructed. This is going to provide a significant economic jolt to our city and region, and benefit our university, campus and athletic department.”
The Municipal Development Authority has assembled a team that will complete environmental testing and remediation on the ACF property during the next six to 12 months, Burns said. Simultaneously, HMDA will work with local and state development agencies to market the property and attract job-creating investments.
Both Williams and Burns noted that the acquisition of the ACF property would not have been completed without assistance and support from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority, U.S. EPA Region 3, Foundation for the Tri-State Community, which oversees the America’s Best Communities fund, and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“I’ve been president of the Huntington Municipal Development Authority for three years, and one thing I’ve learned is that it requires partnerships at the local, state and federal levels to accomplish economic development projects that will have a long-lasting, positive impact,” HMDA President Bob Adkins said. “HMDA board members are thrilled with this purchase and the opportunities it will provide for Huntington.”
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