WEIRTON Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, met with members of the Weirton Redevelopment Authority Monday to propose collaboration in the effort to guide the future development of the former Jimmy Carey Stadium property.
The BDC, which purchased the 8.7-acre-property in 2012, has worked in conjunction with the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission to organize a list of projects that require "community drive and determination," Ford said. The stadium property is first on the list, and it meets criteria to benefit from the HUB Community Achievement Program.
"We chose this site because we think of it as a transitional property. Whatever ends up there will tip the entire neighborhood in one direction or another," Ford said.
The HUBCAP initiative includes a core team, consisting of Ford; Marvin Six, assistant director of the BDC; Amber Nest of the BDC; John Brown, executive director of BHJ; Jeff Davis, Hancock County Commissioner; Catherine Ferrari, president of Hancock County Savings Bank; Caroll Rosenlieb, of Hancock County Savings Bank; Bob Reed, private developer; Bill Greathouse, broker; and Mayor George Kondik.
Ford suggested that the redevelopment authority take up the role of a project specific "civic engagement" team designated to assist in the decision making and resource management that lies ahead for potential development at the stadium site. Primarily, the team would help drive an agenda, identify funding sources and work toward establishing an end goal for the project.
When John Greco, authority board member, asked what the commitment would cost, Ford answered that it would only cost time spent at regular meetings. The agreement will not cost the authority financially unless members later decide to expand their district to encompass the property, which would require about $6,000. That action would not be warranted, Ford said, unless another opportunity for funding would arise through the authority specifically and members would opt to pursue it.
"I can't think of a less likely property to sell in Weirton," commented the Rev. Larry Dorsch, authority board member. "It's tucked behind old, dilapidated parts of the mill. It's surrounded by ArcelorMittal property, and they won't talk to us. Why not start with one that's got more visibility, one that's got half a chance?"
"I have seen worse sites restored and turned around in other cities," Ford said.
He added that he must begin work with properties of which the BDC has site control. Ward 3 Councilman and Authority Board member Fred Marsh added that he has also seen worse properties turned around.
"We have to start somewhere," Kondik agreed. He envisions minor league baseball as one of the site's potential uses.
Mark Zatezelo, chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, agreed the members should participate in the HUBCAP initiative for the stadium project.
"It is a tough sell because of access, but I think we should just do it. It would be helpful," he said. "I think we can benefit from widening the circle."
Members voted unanimously to accept the offer and will act as the Civic Engagement team alongside Kondik as development at the old Jimmy Carey Stadium plays out. Dorsch noted that he still had doubts about the site.
The BDC has also applied for the Governor's Community Participation Grant in the amount of $12,000 to support the project.