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Bike path could be part of comprehensive city plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A two-way bike lane on Kanawha Boulevard between the Patrick Street Bridge and Magic Island may be in the cards for Charleston.

The biking lane is one of the options being discussed for inclusion in "Imagine Charleston: Your dream. Our future," a comprehensive plan for the future of Charleston.

The bike lane would take the place of a plan to rehabilitate a railroad trestle bridge across the Kanawha River. The city had received federal funds to make the bridge accessible for walking and biking, but the money isn't sufficient for the project.

"So the city has been working with the state highway department to reprioritize the grant and the opportunity here is to do something on Kanawha Boulevard from Magic Island to the Patrick Street Bridge - to use a two-way bike lane on the river side," said Brad Strader of the Michigan consulting firm LSL Planning.

Putting in the bike path would mean taking out the median and narrowing the lanes to create a 10-foot-wide double bike lane on the riverside.

LSL Planning and MKSK have been hired by the city to lead officials and community members through the process of developing both a comprehensive plan for the city and a downtown redevelopment plan.

MKSK is an urban design, landscape architecture and entertainment design firm. 

After series of public meetings to hear from community members about what they'd like to see included, the team is about halfway through the process of developing that plan.

Tuesday's open house meeting gave residents the opportunity to review the plan so far. They also were able to vote on the top priorities for the plan, which is broken down into sections that include neighborhoods, mobility, quality of life, downtown livability and downtown business. The team will have another meeting in a few months to present a draft of the plan to the public.

One piece of the plan includes repurposing commercial space into green space and residential space, Strader said.

"The population in Charleston has gone down and there's more commercial space than the population can absorb," Strader said. "We may be looking to repurpose that space."

Another goal is to make Charleston known for high technology and to find ways to attract and keep a younger population, Strader said.

Charleston has a higher population of younger people compared to other comparable cities, he said.

"We want to be able to keep them in Charleston," Strader said.

Craig Gossman of MKSK, which is heading up the downtown development portion of the plan, said so far the overall sentiment he has heard from people is that they want more residential space downtown.

"We have this issue of people wanting to live and reside downtown," Gossman said. "In addition, we all know that downtown Charleston is really a place of significant business."

Young professionals and older people alike have said they want to live there, he said. There is a need not only for luxury apartments and condominiums but for other types of housing as well, he said. 

Dan Vriendt, planning director for the city of Charleston, said so far the public's reaction to the plan has been positive.

Feedback from Tuesday's event will be used to make changes in the plan before a draft is written, he said.

Once complete, the plan will provide the city with a sort of road map for the next 15 to 20 years, he said.

"The city should look at it every five years or so and make updates to keep it a living document," Vriendt said. 

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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