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Progress being made on redevelopment of former ACF site

HUNTINGTON – The City of Huntington and Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) are making progress with plans to redevelop the former ACF Industries property in the city’s Highlawn neighborhood.

The HMDA’s board of directors learned recently that environmental consultants have conveyed promising initial results showing a lack of significant environmental contamination on key portions 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.

Mayor Steve Williams, meanwhile, will announce the creation of a task force this fall with senior leaders from the City of Huntington, HMDA, Marshall University, Huntington Area Development Council, Mountain Health, West Virginia Development Office, Advantage Valley and other agencies to consider best strategies for bringing innovation- and knowledge-sector job development to the former ACF site. 

The HMDA also has identified funding to conduct a market feasibility and business attraction study this fall as well as funding to prepare for roadway, storm water, sidewalk, landscaping, lighting and signage improvements along 3rd Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets.

“I’m very pleased with both the environmental testing results we have received thus far on the ACF property and the progress we are making to align this site to become the economic gateway of the Appalachian region,” Williams said. “This will be a game-changer for our community.”

The HMDA purchased the former ACF site for $3.125 million on Jan. 30. Funding for the acquisition came 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.

The 5-acre parking lot on the south side of 3rd Avenue has completed the required environmental testing, the results of which found no contamination and deemed the property acceptable and ready for all types of development. The HMDA is now marketing the parking lot for commercial or residential use.

“The parking lot is directly adjacent to the property where Marshall University will construct a baseball stadium, so we’re looking for development that would complement a baseball stadium,” HMDA Executive Director Cathy Burns said. “Connectivity between those two parcels as well as between the parking lot and the former ACF site is also important, which is why we are focused on upgrades that take into account walkability and greenspace.”

The KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission has dedicated $250,000 in transportation grant funds for design and engineering work of a “complete street” upgrade on 3rd Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets. The preparation work will include designs for access points to both parcels of the former ACF property, sidewalk improvements, lighting improvements, landscaping and storm water management. 

Preliminary environmental tests on the 37 acres of former ACF property on the north side of 3rd Avenue also have shown promising results, Burns said. 

“The initial reports came back better than we anticipated, and we will resume environmental testing in October,” she said. 

The conceptual plan for the redevelopment of this 37-acre parcel of the former ACF site envisions 700,000 square feet of mixed-use development, including up to 400,000 square feet of commercial space, lab space, research and development space, and space geared toward health-care-based and knowledge-sector facilities.

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