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Overhaul Of Slack Plaza Ready To Move Forward

Reported: May. 5, 2014 11:34 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - A Charleston trouble spot will soon see a facelift. And police are helping take back the transit mall. Finally, after years of planning, the Transit Mall renovation project is gaining some ground. The Transit Mall will undergo a re-design, through an EPA grant secured by the Charleston Area Alliance.

The plan calls for more green space at Slack Plaza and upgrades to the crosswalks.

Before many of these renovations can begin, another problem has to be cleaned up and that's rampant crime in the area.

In the meantime, some 650-thousand dollars in grant money is ready and waiting for the project, but there isn't much time to get everything done on the design end.

The re-design of Slack Plaza has been on-hold for a few years now for various reasons. City leaders tell us, they're excited after all these years, to extend a contract for a design consultant to come in and do the master plan. It's a lot of work and they have a super short time frame to make it all happen.

"It's tired, it's been there for over 40 years, It's time that we take another look at it," said Charleston City Manager David Molgaard.

The City's downtown “problem child” of late, has been the Transit Mall, but now it’s on the fast track to get a huge overhaul.

"It doesn't work, the way it's designed now, with the water fountain, creates a gauntlet that people have to be funneled through, the water feature doesn't even work," said Molgaard.

Sidewalks from Capitol to Court Streets will get a similar look and feel.

"The reason we're moving forward so quickly right now, is because we do have a grant, to do work at the crosswalks at Summers, Laidley & Court Streets, as well as the Brawley Walkway at Fife Alley," said Molgaard. "We anticipate that it might take millions of dollars to actually do the plaza itself."

Right now, it's lacking in construction drawings and cost estimates. The City's had a little more than 650-thousand dollars waiting for a couple years now.

"Just in February this year, we given notice that the funds would be released, that it was broken up into a design portion and construction portion," said Molgaard, who added, they knew they had the money since 2012, but sequestration and other government tie-ups kept it in Washington.

And it's not just money. People have been a problem there too.

"Make no mistake about it, the people that are waiting for the bus, aren't the problem," said Molgaard.

Police have made several raids for things like public intoxication and drugs.

"I came out of the club, had a couple drinks. Now, they say, you can't drink and drive, so I'm catching the bus! I can understand if I was a nuisance, I wasn't a nuisance, I was just waiting to catch the bus," said Robert Pannell, who was one of those people arrested recently.

"Clean the park up, I like what they're doing, because I've seen a lot of things that should not be happening in this park!," said Salah El-Bedawi.

The City only has until September 26th to have the design ready, so they can access the rest of that federal money. Lots of agencies have to approve it first, like the State Historic Preservation Office, the DNR, The U.S. Fish & Wildlife, even though the Kanawha River is several blocks away. Molgaard said they need to be realistic about cost and design and most importantly, be ready come September.

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