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WVU Brownfields Center to support seven key projects to facilitate investment

The skyline of downtown Charleston across the Kanawha River is shown through trees on a gray day.

Opportunity Appalachia, a program of Appalachian Community Capital and its lead state partner, the Brownfields Assistance Center at WVU, announced the selection of 29 projects to participate in its program aimed at increasing job growth, business support and investment in Central Appalachia. 

These projects are set to create more than 2,700 jobs and attract more than $270 million in financing, targeting a diverse array of developments such as housing, entrepreneurial and clean energy hubs, manufacturing, community centers, arts and entertainment centers, coworking spaces and hospitality. 

The chosen projects underscore the increasing investment potential in rural and downtown communities across Central Appalachia. Opportunity Appalachia will actively engage with private investors, banks, community development financial institutions, New Markets Tax Credits investors, Historic Tax Credit investors, Opportunity Zone investors and federal agencies to highlight these communities and facilitate their access to necessary financing. 

Opportunity Appalachia received 94 competitive applications for technical assistance from Eastern Kentucky, Southeast Ohio, East Tennessee, Western North Carolina, Southwest Virginia, and all of West Virginia, representing projects with anticipated costs over $620 million. From this impressive pool, the 29 projects listed below have been selected for participation.

Technical assistance will be provided to the selected projects, aiding in the development of investment prospectus, structuring financial transactions, conducting market research, operations planning, architectural design and carrying out investor outreach.

Following the completion of technical assistance, an investor convening event will be held in early 2025 targeting both local and pre-vetted national investors, as well as federal and state funders. Additionally, a curated web-based platform hosting prospectus and pitch decks will also be made available to facilitate investor due diligence.

Since 2020, Opportunity Appalachia has supported 58 projects seeking to secure $471 million for downtown and rural development. To date, $89 million has been raised toward these projects, with five projects having closed on their financing. 

This program is supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission, the U.S. Department of Treasury CDFI Fund, Truist Bank, Dogwood Health Trust, Claude W. Benedum Foundation, U.S. Bank and M&T Bank.

“ARC is proud to support Opportunity Appalachia as they continue to invest and partner in growing our region’s rural communities,” said Gayle Manchin, ARC federal co-chair.  “Our residents’ zip codes should not define their destinies. I’m optimistic about the new job opportunities and overall increased quality of life that will take hold in rural Appalachia as a result of these investments and Opportunity Appalachia’s collaborative approach to economic development.”

“We are excited to provide essential financial and technical support to our region, fostering investment in job-creating small businesses across sectors like clean energy, manufacturing, entrepreneurial support, the arts, and hospitality,” said Donna Gambrell, Appalachian Community Capital president and CEO. Gambrell’s organization coordinates the Opportunity Appalachia effort. 

“Our efforts will support the creation of 390 housing units, help establish or support over 340 businesses, create more than 2,700 new jobs, and attract over $270 million in public and private investments,” Gambrell added. 

“The technical assistance and pre-development funding through programs like Opportunity Appalachia are often the critical piece between success and failure for redevelopment projects in West Virginia,” said Carrie Staton, director of the Brownfields Assistance Center at WVU. “With this investment from the ARC and Benedum Foundation, key projects in our communities will be better positioned for success in places where the impact can be significant, and go far beyond economics, increasing quality of life and helping to build stronger communities.”

Opportunity Appalachia is led by a nine-member consortium of regional and national organizations with expertise in financing and marketing that will support local projects to develop sophisticated investment packets geared toward prospective investors. 

Partners include: Appalachian Community Capital, OhioSE, Opportunity Southwest Virginia/UVA Wise, Fahe, Mountain BizWorks, West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, University of Tennessee Knoxville, Main Street America and Coastal Enterprises. 

Opportunity Appalachia selected the following projects in West Virginia:

Black Diamond Sustainable Development Logistics Hub, Coalfield Development Corporation, Huntington — Second phase build out to create state-of-the-art space for tenants in the climate resilience and climate technology industries. Total costs estimated at $6 million with creation of 100 permanent jobs. (Pending local approval.)

G.C. Murphy Building, Richwood Scientific, Richwood — Rehabilitation of the former department store into a mixed-use concept to include 15 right-priced housing units, a co-working space, and retail or hospitality. Total costs estimated at $7.7 million with creation of 15 permanent positions.

Logan Medical Education Housing Complex, City of Logan, Logan — Renovation of the complex into 11 housing units for participants in the only Rural General Surgery Residency Program in the nation at the nearby Logan Regional Medical Center. Total costs estimated at $6 million with creation of 34 construction jobs.

New River Grocery Warehouse, City of Hinton, Hinton —  Refurbishment of a former warehouse building into a restaurant or coffee shop and bookstore/retail on the ground level with 16 apartments above. Estimated costs total $5 million and creation of up to 20 permanent jobs.

RenewAll Cultural Wealth Hub, RenewAll, Huntington — Creation of a social and entrepreneurial space representing the industrial history of the Central City with a museum, vendor space and cultural events venue. Total costs estimated at $1.5 million with creation of 44 permanent positions.

Downtown Charleston, Gresham Development, LLC, Charleston — Redevelopment of the four-story building to contain a restaurant on the first floor and nine apartments on the floors above. Total costs estimated at $3.5 million with creation of 50 permanent jobs.

Travelers Hotel and Hotel Thelma, Bluefield Arts and Revitalization Corporation, Bluefield — Rehabilitation of two historic Green Book hotels to transform into 21 affordable apartments along with community space featuring exhibits of African American history. Total costs estimated at $4.5 million and creation of 15 construction and three permanent jobs.

Selected projects from other states can be found here.