Local residents and business owners attended the “Community Opportunities Meeting” Thursday at the A.D. Lewis Community Center, to offer input on improvements to the Fairfield neighborhood. 

The meeting also included an update on the Hal Greer Boulevard Corridor Plan, which aims to make the corridor safer and more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists. Developers have been in Huntington since Monday, gathering input from residents and meeting with landscape architects, engineers, planners and urban designers on the project. They compiled the information and presented it to the public Thursday evening at the meeting. 

“We’ve been working all week to solve the problems and critical issues that people have voiced over the last three months,” said Mike Rutkowski, project manager and consultant engineer at Stantec.

According to an online survey for the corridor plan, 81 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with safety for pedestrians crossing the street.

“Lighting is really sub-standard and I think it’s really dangerous for small kids to come across the street,” said David Harris, a Fairfield neighborhood resident.

In addition, 75 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the current selection of shops, restaurants and entertainment. 

“I’d like to see more commerce, particularly a super market,” said Harris. “We used to have three or four in this area and now there’s none.” 

“The number one thing that people wanted along this corridor was a grocery store, so part of our market analysis indicated, based on the rooftop today, you can justify a 2,000-square-foot, smaller grocery store, among other things as well,” said Rutkowski. 

Meanwhile, the nearby housing and neighborhood improvement project, called the Fairfield Innovations Plan, is still in its infancy. 

“The City of Huntington and the Huntington Housing Authority recently received a planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” said Bryan Chambers, communication director for the City of Huntington. “The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative … focuses on enhanced services, security, improved schools and youth programs, additional educational opportunitites, better transportation, and access to jobs.”

Community members voiced their biggest concerns and what they’d like to see improved in the neighborhood.  

“We have a good deal of blighted housing in the area and it needs to be developed,” said Harris. 

“We’ve also talked a lot about improving the walk-ability of the neighborhood, making it more safe for people to circulate around the neighborhood,” said Adam Rosa, principal at Camiros, Ltd., the firm leading the Fairfields Innovation Plan. “Respecting the culture, history and heritage of the community is something we’ve been hearing over and over.” 

That could even mean possible improvements to a staple in the community, and the meeting’s location: the A.D. Lewis Community Center.

“It has served as the heart of the neighborhood for decades,” said Rosa. “So how can we, through this process, make this facility world-class? How can we turn it into something that will be the pride of Huntington?”