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Huntington restaurants to promote America’s Best Communities competition

HUNTINGTON – Local restaurants are teaming up to support Huntington’s efforts to win the America’s Best Communities competition.

Starting Oct. 19 and occurring once a month through April, participating restaurants will host ABC8 Restaurant Night. The goal of the recurring event is to generate excitement and community pride during the final months of the competition, said Ava Gibson Bicknell, owner of Savannah’s and co-chairwoman of the ABC8 Restaurant Night Committee.

“Throughout the America’s Best Communities competition, Huntington’s citizens and business community have had several opportunities to get involved and tell the country why our city is such a wonderful place to live, work and play.” Bicknell said. “Huntington is well-known for its eclectic mix of locally-owned restaurants, so we wanted to do our part to help bring home the grand prize.”

During ABC8 Restaurant Night, customers of participating restaurants are encouraged to check in on social media at the restaurant and post why they think Huntington is America’s best community. They are also encouraged to use the hashtags #abc8 and #abc8restaurantnight.

“Community engagement is one of the categories that Huntington will be judged on to determine the winner of the competition,” said Drew Hetzer, owner of Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar and co-chairman of the ABC8 Restaurant Night Committee. “We’re hoping everyone will show their support for Huntington by coming out to all of the participating restaurants and sharing what they love about our community on social media.”

ABC8 Restaurant Night is scheduled for Oct. 19, Nov. 16, Dec. 21, Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 15 and April 12. Participating restaurants include Savannah’s; Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar; Bittersweet Coffeehouse; Nawab Indian Cuisine; Crumpets & Tea; River and Rail Bakery; 21 at the Frederick; La Famiglia; Central City Café; and Le Bistro.

Participating restaurants are invited to donate a small portion of their proceeds from those days to Huntington’s America’s Best Communities effort, although it is not required.

Restaurants that would like to participate in ABC8 Restaurant Night or have questions are asked to contact Margaret Mary Layne at margaretmarylayne@gmail.com. Restaurants that only serve breakfast and/or lunch are eligible to join.

Huntington is one of eight finalists in the nationwide America’s Best Communities competition, which is sponsored by Frontier Communications, The Weather Channel, DISH and CoBank.

America’s Best Communities is a multi-stage competition that will provide seed money and other support to assist small communities as they develop new economic growth strategies. The top three communities — those with the most innovative proposals being effectively implemented — will share a total of $6 million in prize money. The winning communities will be announced April 26, 2017, and will be awarded $3 million for first place, $2 million for second place and $1 million for third.

For more information about the competition, visit www.americasbestcommunities.com. For more information about Huntington’s community revitalization plan that it submitted to the competition, visit www.cityofhuntington.com.


Public workshop to focus on redeveloping post-industrial properties

Huntington residents will have an opportunity in September to weigh in on the future use of several post-industrial “brownfields” properties throughout the city, especially within the Highlawn neighborhood.

The City of Huntington, Huntington Municipal Development Authority and the consulting firm of Stromberg, Garrigan and Associates will host an interactive workshop for the public at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27, at Community of Grace United Methodist Church, 225 28th St.

The main question that will be asked at the workshop will be, “How should Huntington address its vacant and underutilized industrial and brownfields areas?” A brownfield is a parcel of land devalued by the real or perceived presence of contamination.

The City received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to come up with a viable redevelopment strategy that links community-driven goals with environmental improvement, resulting in social and economic growth for the city and particularly the Highlawn neighborhood. To accomplish this, city officials, through a competitive bidding process, hired Stromberg, Garrigan and Associates. The consulting firm specializes in urban planning, brownfield redevelopment, landscape architecture and community engagement.

The City of Huntington is currently in the first phase of creating the redevelopment strategy, which includes real estate market data collection and analysis. The second phase includes gathering public input this fall. The third phase will occur in early 2017 and will include focus group review meetings and agency coordination. The fourth and final phase will occur in spring 2017 and will include unveiling the redevelopment strategy and beginning to implement it.

The project study area consists of large industrial sites, as well as commercial, retail, institutional and residential properties between the Ohio River and 3rd Avenue from 13th to 27th streets.

The brownfields redevelopment strategy is a component of the city’s revitalization plan, also known as the Huntington Innovation Project (HIP). The revitalization plan was submitted to the America’s Best Communities competition, of which Huntington is one of eight finalists.

As a finalist, Huntington received a grant prize of $100,000 in May and was given 11 months to begin to implement the HIP plan. The top three communities that make the largest impact and show the greatest potential for achieving sustainable revitalization will be selected as the grand prize winners in spring 2017. The first-place community will receive $3 million, with second place earning $2 million and $1 million for third place.

For more information about the brownfields redevelopment strategy, contact Bryan Chambers, communications director for the City of Huntington, at chambersb@cityofhuntington.com or by calling 304-962-8138. Project and public workshop updates will also be posted online at www.cityofhuntington.com.


Mayor provides update on progress of America’s Best Communities competition

Mayor Steve Williams conducted the first of four quarterly press conferences on Tuesday, June 21, to update the public on the city’s revitalization plan that it submitted for the America’s Best Communities competition and discuss ways Huntington residents can get involved in the city’s efforts to win the competition.

Huntington was named one of eight finalists in the competition in late April at the America’s Best Communities Summit in Durham, North Carolina. The competition aims to inspire economic revitalization in small towns and cities across the country. It is sponsored by Frontier Communications, The Weather Channel, DISH Network and CoBank.

As a finalist, Huntington received a grant prize of $100,000 and was given 11 months to begin to implement its community revitalization plan, known as the Huntington Innovation Project, or HIP.

The top three communities that make the largest impact and show the greatest potential for achieving sustainable revitalization will be selected as the grand prize winners in March 2017. The top community will receive $3 million, with second place earning $2 million and $1 million for third place.

Here is how the public can get involved in Huntington’s efforts to win the competition as well as an update on the revitalization plan:

1.) Public Engagement Plan

A.) Three community engagement teams have been formed:

I.) Reader Team: Members of this team will read the plans of the seven other finalists and list proposed strategies for improving Huntington’s plan based on the strengths of the other finalists.

II.) Ambassador Team: Members of this team will have special training on the HIP Plan and serve as ambassadors to the rest of the community. Tyson Compton, executive director of the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitors Bureau, will chair this team.

III.) Social Media Team: Members of this team are working under the direction of City of Huntington Communications Director Bryan Chambers and will be responsible for sharing updates about the competition, the HIP plan and other positive Huntington stories by using the hashtags #ABC8 and #MakeNoLittlePlans.

Anyone who is interested in serving on these teams can call Bryan Chambers at 304.962.8138 or email chambersb@cityofhuntington.com.

IV.) ABC-HIP Plan Website: There is now a section on the city’s website (www.cityofhuntington.com) that serves as a one-stop shop for the latest information on the ABC competition and the HIP Plan. It includes blog posts, news articles and photos. You can also read the HIP Plan in its entirety.

V.) Press Conferences: This is the first of four quarterly press conferences that the city will conduct leading up to the announcement of the three ABC grand prize winners in April 2017. Each press conference will be scheduled one to two weeks prior to each quarterly report that will be due to the America’s Best Communities competition.

2.) Events

A.) #ABC8 Social Media Challenge: Later this summer or early fall, there will be a fun, community-wide challenge to raise awareness of America’s Best Communities and the HIP Plan on social media. The winner will receive a cash prize.

B.) #ABC8 Restaurant Night: Once a month from July through April 2017, a participating restaurant will host an “#ABC8 Restaurant Night” with a small percentage of sales donated to the HIP Projects. Drew Hetzer, owner of Backyard Pizza, and Ava Bicknell, owner of Savannah’s, have agreed to lead this effort.

3.) Donations

A.) The City is setting up the following funds with Foundation for the Tri-State Community to allow individuals and corporations to donate to the HIP Plan:

  • Planning/Design
  • Livability
  • Infrastructure
  • Landscaping
  • Construction

B.) Those who are interested in donating can call the FTSC at 606-324-3888 or email info@tristatefoundation.org.

4.) Current Progress

A.) Teams for each of the four components of the HIP Plan – Highlawn Brownfields, Hal Greer Boulevard Corridor, West End and implementing high-speed broadband -- are already in existence and are working hard.

B.) The $100,000 prize money from being selected as an ABC Finalist will be used to move these projects along. The city’s ABC leadership team is engaging the National Development Council to build a funding plan for each project.

C.) The ABC leadership team held working meetings with Congressman Evan Jenkins and community leaders immediately following the ABC Summit in April to discuss how Jenkins can help.

D.) The city’s ABC leadership team is developing a grant application with the Appalachian Regional Commission for $1 million to help fund the acquisition of the first parcel of the Highlawn Brownfields site and have held meetings and are proceeding with the three EPA brownfield grants which will identify what needs to be cleaned up as well as the best potential uses for the property.

E.) The city’s ABC leadership team has submitted a strong application to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Every Place Counts Challenge which, if Huntington wins, will bring in a team of experts to help come up with solutions for the Hal Greer Boulevard Corridor. The team has also formed a work group for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhood grant in Fairfield West.

F.) The city’s ABC leadership team has formed a team of experts for the “Gigabit City” initiative to begin the process of developing an RFP for the implementation of high-speed broadband.

G.) At the West Edge Factory in Westmoreland, the Coalfield Development Corporation will be honoring its first 20 graduates from the Solar Training Institute certified technician program on June 22, 2016.

H.) The city is working on a TIGER Planning Grant award with the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission that is providing valuable information for transportation planning within the project areas.


City kicks off Brownfields Planning and Redevelopment Project in Highlawn

Mayor Steve Williams, the Huntington Municipal Development Authority and consultants with the Pennsylvania-based firm Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates hosted a public meeting Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Conference Center to kick off the city's Brownfields Planning and Redevelopment Project in the Highlawn neighborhood.

The meeting provided an overview of the work to be performed under the U.S. EPA-funded effort. The City of Huntington received three EPA grants totaling $600,000 in 2015. Two of the grants are to assess properties that may have been adversely affected by petroleum and other hazardous substances. The third is a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant that will focus on land use, zoning and conducting a market analysis that will evaluate varying types of redevelopment opportunities, among other things. Huntington was one of only 20 communities nationwide last year to receive a Brownfields Area-Wide Planning grant from the EPA.

The general boundaries of the brownfields area are from the Ohio River to 3rd Avenue between 20th and 27th streets. Mayor Williams said the Highlawn Brownfields area, which consists of roughly 75 acres of flat land that has been used for heavy industrial purposes for more than 140 years, is primed for revitalization and could trigger job creation from research and development facilities that could locate in the area. The residential area of Highlawn also could benefit because the planning process will involve eliminating stormwater flooding on 3rd and 5th avenues and adding greenspace.

"There's an opportunity to the west of the brownfields area with Marshall University busting at the seams," Mayor Williams said. "To the east, we have the well-established Highlawn neighborhood, which because of a lack of jobs, has seen a rate of decline that simply isn't acceptable. Now, imagine pedestrian traffic from the neighborhood being drawn toward Marshall along a tree-lined 3rd Avenue and Marshall students being drawn toward Highlawn. That's the vision we want to accomplish. By this time next year, we will know from the planning process what the true possibilities are. A journey of 100 miles, even 1,000 miles, begins with the first step. This meeting is the first step."

The consultants hired by the city to assist with administering the grants will host meetings with key stakeholders and the public over the next several months to gain feedback. They are expected to complete historical use data and other background work on the properties by mid- to late summer and will conduct a multi-day public workshop in late September. A specific reuse plan is expected to be completed by early 2017.

The Highlawn Brownfields Area is a major component of the city’s community revitalization plan, known as the Huntington Innovation Project (HIP). The plan was submitted as part of Huntington’s application to win the America’s Best Communities competition, sponsored by Frontier Communications, The Weather Channel, DISH and CoBank. Huntington was named one of eight finalists in the competition in April and now has 11 months to begin implementing the plan. ‪