Moundsville Brownfield Sites Are Identified

Unlike many cities where blight is concentrated in specific neighborhoods, Moundsville’s vacant and dilapidated buildings are spread throughout town, according to a study by the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center.

Luke Elser, the organization’s project manager, spoke before the city council at their meeting Tuesday evening to present their findings, joined with Rick Healy, from the Bel-O-Mar Regional Council. The majority of vacant buildings studied were in good to decent condition. Sixty were in poor condition, with just two being recommended for demolition.

The unique trait Moundsville had, Elser said, was its lack of a “bad neighborhood” where many buildings were in disrepair — rather, the identified structures were evenly spread throughout the city.

“We didn’t find any gigantic red flags with any one issue,” Elser said. “We found that these buildings were spread all over town. There were a couple of hot spots, but basically we found the things you’d expect in a typical West Virginian town. … The only different thing I’ve seen that we don’t see in other communities is that we don’t have a neighborhood in severe distress. This is a community-wide issue, as far as buildings that are chronically vacant or dilapidated.”

In particular, Elser identified several vacant structures in great shape that could be used to immediately house potential businesses. He urged the city to compile a list of buildings available for sale or lease, to entice both new businesses and residents to Moundsville.

“Some key commercial structures that are vacant serve as immediate opportunities to bring new businesses into the buildings, so start marketing those buildings, start working with the owners to get those reoccupied as an economic opportunity. … Market the town, attract new people looking into the empty residential buildings, attract development interest for the commercial properties, and market the opportunities in Moundsville.”

Councilman David Wood was pleased with the assessment, but sought to make sure prospective businesses would be able to see the same data the council had. Healy said Belomar would be ready to meet with prospective businesses, though he asked the members of council meet with volunteers working with Belomar, to assist them themselves.

“We’ll facilitate communicating meetings to the prior volunteers to get the coming back,” Healy said. “We’ve had a lot of volunteers help, and they really want to see council get involved with this. Frankly, you’re going to have decisions to make, and you need to see what’s going on with all this information.”

Councilman Mark Simms pointed out that the city had averaged between 16 to 18 demolitions annually in recent years, which Elser said is a large number, especially for a community of Moundsville’s size. He said this was indicative of the city’s up-to-date building code and well-staffed building department.