Next Steps for Elkins Redevelopment

A report from a national organization that assists cities in planning for effective economic development says that Elkins is on the right track and offers suggestions for maximizing the city’s already strong potential. Council is already taking steps that may help fund these and other projects.

Smart Growth America (SGA) visited Elkins in October to gather data, hold stakeholder workshops, and collect community input. In addition to city officials, SGA staff met with downtown business leaders, community service organizations, youth service organizations, and community and economic development organizations.

The SGA report (available for download here) finds that “there is strong community support for the redevelopment and adaptive reuse of downtown Elkins.” SGA staff reported hearing that “residents want to see a vibrant, lively downtown that hosts a variety of businesses and people.” The team’s “overarching recommendation” is for Elkins to “develop and implement a strategy to leverage the most important unique asset that Elkins possesses: its historic railyard.” According to SGA, any plans for further development of the railyard “should focus on mixed-use, walkable real estate.”

The report offered other short-term, medium-term, and long-term recommendations. Although many of these projects would be costly, the Elkins council recently began the process of applying to establish a Tax Increment Financing district in the city’s downtown. Such a move would provide a means of funding many development projects in Elkins without raising taxes or cutting spending on other services and projects. (A hearing will be held concerning TIF at 7 p.m. on January 5.)

Short-term recommendations include:

  • Improve the downtown streetscape (City of Elkins recently contracted with GAI Consultants to prepare a formal downtown streetscape plan)
  • Improve wayfinding and signage leading into Elkins (in 2023, the city will be installing attractive new signs at the city’s main ingress routes; improved signage will be included in the above streetscape plan and is also contemplated in the recently completed Elkins Riverfront Plan, also created by GAI Consultants)

Medium-term recommendations include:

  • Conduct a downtown parking demand study (from the report: “There are 1,400 off-street parking spots downtown, and yet many people believe there isn’t enough parking.”)
  • Engage the community continually and exclusively (the city recently deployed an online agenda center to raise public awareness of council and committee meetings and is actively exploring other software options to make it easier for citizens to interact with the city government)
  • Facilitate Augusta Heritage takeover of Wilt Building (the city is currently working with Augusta Heritage and Woodlands Development & Lending to see how this project can be made possible)

Long-term recommendations include:

  • Redesign of U.S. Highway 250/Seneca Trail
  • Riverfront study area development (again, see the recently completed Elkins Riverfront Plan)
  • Encourage additional residential development (the Randolph County Housing Authority and Woodlands Development & Lending recently completed a study of local housing needs in conjunction with WVU and Virginia Tech)

The SGA report, which contains additional information and recommendations, may be downloaded here: https://cityofelkinswv.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Next-Steps-Memo-for-Elkins-with-SGA-recommendations.pdf

For information about current projects and initiatives in Elkins: https://cityofelkinswv.com/government/current-projects-initiatives.

For information about Tax Increment Financing in Elkins: https://cityofelkinswv.com/retaining-local-property-taxes-for-local-projects.

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