The Huntington Municipal Development Authority took another step toward a major revitalization of land in the Highlawn area Wednesday. The group approved funding for the purchase of 77.46 acres of property between 5th Avenue and the Ohio River, known as the Highlawn brownfields, for up to $4.5 million.
“This is what we’ve been talking about for some time and it’s now finally coming together,” said Huntington Mayor Steve Williams.
Vacant, closed-down factories currently fill the large space in the Highlawn neighborhood, which the city describes as “prime real estate.” The city has planned to redevelop the land for years, but struggled to acquire three properties located there: the former Flint Group Pigments site, Ingram Barge property and ACF complex.
Now, Mayor Williams says the plan is moving along and expects to close on the Flint Pigments property as early as next week. Negotiations for the Ingram Barge and ACF properties are still in the works, but are expected to be finalized this year.
The plan to revitalize the Highlawn brownfields, known as the HBIZ project, helped the city win “America’s Best Community” in 2017. The city’s prize from the competition will cover about $500,000 of the purchase.
“We are finally being able to utilize the winnings from the America’s Best Communities competition,” said Williams.
The HBIZ project includes plans for a wide range of developments, including a potential new baseball stadium for Marshall University.
“We know that Marshall needs a baseball stadium and Huntington deserves a baseball stadium, and as we acquire this land, we’re going to give that opportunity,” said Williams. “But if it’s going to be announced, that’s Marshall’s announcement to make, not ours.”
Mayor Williams says the sky’s the limit when deciding what could be included in the future development plans, but ideas he mentioned included a hotel, buildings for Marshall research and development, as well as medical facilities.
“Huntington, as a result of the development of this property, becomes the it-property and the it-community within this region of the United States,” said Williams.