Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.

Even though Huntington has been dealt some difficulties of late, it keeps meeting those challenges head-on. In fact, WV Living Magazine just gave the Jewel City the title of “Best Town Transformation” in West Virginia for 2018.

The turnaround in Huntington first began with the opening of Pullman Square in 2004. The formerly vacant “Super Block” had been a public eyesore and a hindrance to development for decades.

In the years since its opening, Pullman Square has supplied a much needed shot of adrenaline to downtown Huntington. While the square itself has yet to reach 100% capacity, it has jumpstarted development in the rest of the neighborhood, particularly on Third Avenue.

Photo: Aaron-Michael Fox.

Storefronts that have been returned to profitable use include Kenzington Alley, Runway Couture, Le Bistro and the Cellar Door, the Marshall University Visual Arts Center, Mackenzie Dow Fine Furniture, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon, Backyard Pizza and The Peddler, Paula Vega Cakes, Summit Beer Station, Old Main Emporium, Prime on 4th, the Village Collection, the Bodega, Charlie Grainger’s, The Lost Escape Room, Peace Love and Little Donuts, and a slew of other businesses and offices, not including all the offerings at Heritage Station.

Its redevelopment of blighted areas is just one of the contributing factors for Huntington receiving the 2018 Best Town Transformation designation. The city’s leadership has focused much of its attention on its “brownfields” (the EPA defines a “brownfield” as a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination).

These brownfield development efforts were also key to Huntington’s 2017 win of the America’s Best Community competition.

Local art on display at the West Edge Factory during the Huntington Music and Arts Festival. Courtesy TheClio.com.

The brownfield redevelopment will include three main neighborhoods in the city: Highlawn, Fairfield, and the West End. If everything goes according to the City’s Huntington Innovation Project’s plan, these neighborhoods will become hubs for advanced marketing and manufacturing, job creation, solar roof innovation, and modern housing. All of this, combined with the creation of new parks and green spaces, will attract the next generation to live, work, and play in Huntington.

One such brownfield project that has been making considerable waves is the Coalfield Development Corporation and Solar Holler which is headquartered in the old Corbin factory (now called “West Edge”) in West Huntington.

Founded in 2009, Coalfield is working to create employment opportunities for Huntington’s youth and those displaced by the decline of the coal mining and manufacturing sectors in recent years. Both regionally and nationally recognized for their efforts, Coalfield creates quality jobs and generates opportunities for low-income families in southern West Virginia. The Obama administration, the EPA, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Appalachian Regional Commission all convened in the West End to provide nearly $5 million in leveraged resources to construct the West Edge Factory. The main thrust of Coalfield is to create jobs through solar panel installation and retro-fitting historic buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Image courtesy Edward Tucker Architects, Inc.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, there are more plans for Huntington’s transformation, including a new baseball park, hotel, and convention center in the Highlawn neighborhood adjacent to Marshall University; infrastructure upgrades, increased access to the Ohio River, the Heartland Intermodal Gateway (a light industrial park that will redevelop the West End into a manufacturing hub), plus a new Poly-Tech manufacturing center created in partnership with Rubberlite.

Despite what some on social media might say, the future has arguably never been brighter for Huntington, West Virginia!

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