FLEMING: 'THERE IS JUST AN EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR,' FCDP EXPANDING ITS MISSION TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Story by Nicole Lemal-Stefanovich | Correspondent, The Fairmont News
A look at the riverfront property, the needs facing the Fairmont community, and the conjunction of local groups working together has given the Fairmont Community Development Partnership (FCDP) a reason to be looking toward the future and the potential the area possesses for future development.Construction on the 800 block of Virginia Avenue is underway, as the group has cleaned up the neighborhood. Efforts may be made to attend to the Walnut Avenue area, which will be exposed upon the completion of the Third Street Bridge project. Discussions with West Virginia University students have given the FCDP ideas for rebranding and marketing to better portray its new mission statement. The website also will be revamped to accompany the changes.
With the same logo since 1992, a lot has changed since then, according to Andrea Fleming, the new executive director. Neighborhood revitalization in the area was at one time the primary focus, but now the FCDP has plans to also place emphasis on economic development. Working together with more local groups rather than against each other gives Fairmont a real opportunity, she said, and is just a matter of who initiates the process.
“It’s always kind of who is going to do it first, and that tends to start a positive domino effect of development,” said Fleming, who also still acts as a real estate developer with FCDP. “It’s just somebody initially taking that risk and taking the chance and once others see that, they tend to follow suit.”
Trying to be more actively involved with some of the coalitions in Fairmont, Fleming said it is important to rely on other’s strengths and resources to obtain funding rather than competing against one another for the same purpose.
“Myself and the new main street director have been actively working to put together some projects we might do jointly because our territories do kind of overlap a little bit,” she said. “I think funders are looking for that. We have partnership in our name, so it makes sense that we can be sort of the person that connects the dots to the various community development folks in town.”
A recent conference call with a developer from New Orleans, LA was the start of that. Information was provided on where the area is more likely to be awarded tax credits, which has prompted the FCDP, the city of Fairmont, and other entities to have more frequent discussions on which projects should be deemed valuable. Grocery stores in the downtown area as well as manufacturing have been earmarked as potential projects.
Manufacturing was at one time a great source of employment on 12th street, according to Fleming. The workforce from previous layoffs in the mines and oil and gas industry is already in place, if manufacturing made a return to the area.
“I think the city has done a good job of trying to rethink their comprehensive planning going forward, how things are set up and how we can attract a labor intensive businesses here to help retool the people that we have who are laid off,” she said. “We have a lot of positive things going for us right now, and I think if all the stars align, we can really be on the cusp of some heavy development here.”
What Fairmont does have is a great building stock, Fleming said, and willing business owners who want to see work done with their properties. As more funding is released from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to target various populations, specific low income groups can be accommodated. Funding has been identified to build housing at a low that cost that would house veterans, the homelessness with low income, those who are on disability or victims of domestic violence situations.
In years past, Fleming said the negative energy was imminent. Community members didn’t put faith in projects until physical work started. At times, the possibilities seemed bleak. Despite the loss of population and the distressed circumstances surrounding the state, however, various pools of funding from the federal government are available. Distressed areas receive more points on a scoring system to determine which locations should have access to that funding.
“I feel like we’re all on the same page,” Fleming said. “We all want to see Fairmont redeveloped. It’s just getting the right heads together, pulling every resource that we can because it sounds like for some of these programs, the more dollars that you have from various funders, the better. They want to see that you’re actively seeking supplemental funding to make these projects a reality.”
Revitalization also is needed in many areas of Fairmont, Fleming said, because of its layout. Foot bridges from the east side to the west side of town, in addition from Palentine Park to downtown, would make it more convenient for residents. Additional businesses on Locust Avenue that would make student life more entertaining, while also attracting faculty, nurses, and other community members in that vicinity are important for the growth of the area.
The possibilities are endless, she said, and the culmination of other individuals who are involved from other groups could make the process more efficient. Future development is no longer just a conversation, but a process in which more people have faith.
“I really think there is just an excitement in the air because we all kind of know it’s time, and there is no better time,” she said. “When times are tough and we have a lot of vacant buildings and things like that, it has attracted a sense of urgency from developers. It’s willing to give us the avenues to develop here. I think it’s time to embrace that and try to move forward.”
Original Article: http://www.theet.com/fairmontnews/news/fleming-there-is-just-an-excitement-in-the-air-fcdp/article_b73c5179-2c73-5714-9ee0-316748df5275.html