CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – The Charleston Department Store on Washington Street West has a long-lasting impact on the West Side community, 102 years to be exact. Now, the lot where the recently-closed store stands will take on a new chapter in its history as an apartment building.
“It was just amazing how people brought their kids and their grandkids. They basically have grown up with Charleston Department Store,” former Charleston Department Store employee Natasha Ellis said.
Natasha Ellis began working at the Charleston Department Store while she was in college. She said she will never forget the people she met and the impact that working at the department store made on her life.
“There we were all like family. I had never done retail until I was there. So, everyone taught me different things and taught me to lean on my coworkers which turned into family,” Natasha Ellis said.
The Ogrin family, longtime owners of Charleston Department Store, decided to close their business in March.
The Columbus, Ohio – based housing firm Woda Group purchased the property.
They are planning to demolish the former Charleston Department Store and begin construction on the new apartments in its place this summer, but the project is sparking a little bit of controversy and some strong emotions.
“So, just seeing the building tore down, it’s just sad. I guess as long as they just keep it a good neighborhood, keep it up, and just let the light shine. it’s still will always be known as the Charleston Department Store lot,” Natasha Ellis said.
The new apartment facility will be called “Washington Green” and will have 32 two-bedroom units.
In a press release, the company said “people sometimes have misperceptions about Woda affordable housing. There is no project‐based rental assistance, such as project‐based section 8 rental assistance, at Washington Greene.”
Some West Side community members said bringing new housing to the area is a step in the right direction.
“I’m for that one percent. Again, everybody needs a place to live and to feel safe in our community,” Ron Ellis said. “I think it will be a good help to the West Side of Charleston here.”
Ron Ellis is the pastor at the Charleston Bible Way church just down the road from the former Charleston Department Store. He said it’s sad to see such an iconic business leave Charleston, but he said increasing housing in all of Charleston is important.
“Those who need a place to live, provide it for them. Those who are homeless, provide it for them. Those who are less fortunate need help also, and I think it would help out everybody,” Ron Ellis said.
Woda Group recently purchased and has begun construction on another building in Charleston, the Charmco Lofts.
Woda Group has not given specifics on how this project will be funded.