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Workshop Wraps Wednesday Night
at the Old Opera House, 7 p.m.

The weeklong Ranson Renewed/Charles Town Connected workshop concludes at 7pm Wednesday evening, September 14, at the Charles Town Opera House with a presentation by the teams working in collaboration with the community on plans and ideas to shape future growth for the region.

Here’s what attendees will see:

  • A first rough draft of ideas and plans that connect key components of the project – the transformation of Fairfax Boulevard/George Street into a walkable, mixed-use “green corridor;
  • The revitalization of six former industrial sites; the rehabilitation of historic Charles Washington Hall into a combination civic building/regional commuter center; and
  • The knitting together of project goals with a regulatory approach that privileges walkability, energy efficiency, environmental responsibility and mixed use.

Starting with a tour of the two downtowns and outlying areas on Thursday of last week, it’s been a week of intensive collaboration between the cities, their staffs, residents, business owners and the consulting specialists.

The consulting team, divided into the three components that generally parallel the federal funding sources, have been working out of meeting space converted into a make-shift studio on the third floor of Ranson’s City Hall. It makes for cozy space for the 30-plus team members but for easier collaboration and cross-pollination among the various specialties. Click an image below to review scenes from the day.

For an overview of project goals, check out the overview in the column to the immediate right. To follow the path of public discussions, presentations and critiques, read the posts preceding this one. And to read background reports, notes from the week’s meetings and explanations of the three federal grants that have made the planning efforts possible, go to the Resources section in the toolbar above.

Dede Christopher's illustration-in-progress shows resulting character under the proposed T3 zoning designation.

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A New “Green Corridor” Merges, Symbolizes Project Goals

If there’s a signature project among those the workshop teams are tackling this week, it’s the North-South Fairfax Boulevard/George Street thoroughfare.

The goal: To create a true boulevard that enables walkable, neighborhood-appropriate mixed uses. It’s intended to be a “green” corridor because it’s designed to make the most of state-of-the-art storm water management systems and other environmentally friendly techniques.

In the video below, specialists from all three project teams – those working on components funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) – explain their roles.

To see how the new green corridor fits within the broader goals of the workshop, check out the overview column to the immediate right and the posts preceding this one.

The 1890 plan for what is now Ranson and Charles Town. Click for larger view.

The inspiration for the green corridor comes partly from history. The 1890 plat of the Charles Town/Ranson area depicts a connective spine integrating neighborhoods and what are now the commercial districts of the two towns. Though Ranson wasn’t incorporated until 1910, the original design for the boulevard seamlessly links the two towns.

Design of the boulevard is funded primarily through DOT. Read more about the overall transportation planning effort here. But because properties within the corridor area are former industrial sites prime for redevelopment, the EPA-funded focus on “brownfield” sites offers an opportunity to combine community and federal agency goals. Read more about the EPA-funded efforts here.

The same goes for the HUD-financed land use planning and zoning component. The goal is to assure that redevelopment follows rules that encourage walkable neighborhoods and appropriate commercial uses mixed in with a broad range of residential options. So the regulatory framework has to support that. And the “form-based” coding approach customized for Ranson/Charles Town by the project’s coding specialists will do just that.

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Adapting, Reinvigorating Old Sites: Another key workshop goal

The revitalization of former factory sites, scrap yards and other dormant or under-utilized properties can be one of the most rewarding of community initiatives. Instead of allowing these “brownfield” sites to become eyesores, why not find a productive purpose for them, especially if their redesign can be integrated into a more comprehensive community plan?

Thanks to a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), that’s exactly what Ranson and Charles Town and a team of consulting specialists have in mind as part of the weeklong public workshop that kicks off September 8.

For an overview of the workshop’s broader goals, check out the column to the immediate right. Follow the lead-up to the September 8 workshop launch by reading the posts preceding this one. And go here for a schedule of meetings and collaborative opportunities during the week.

“Ranson and Charles Town have a decade-long track record of partnering on brownfields clean-up and revitalization,” says Sean Garrigan of Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates. He’ll be the project director for the brownfields segment of the weeklong collaborative workshop.

“The results of the partnership have contributed to major transformations in the two communities,” says Garrigan. Most notable among them: The environmental clean-up of a former scrap yard, then the design and construction of the American Public University System’s 45,000-square-foot, highly energy efficient academic center on the former brownfield site.

“Now it’s time for the communities to update strategies to match changes in the economy, to take advantage of new job creation opportunities, to deploy green infrastructure innovations and to support comprehensive sustainable planning,” Garrigan says.

With help from an EPA pilot program grant of $150,000, Ranson and Charles Town and the planners, engineers and designers on the consulting team will be collaborating with the community to target six brownfield sites for revitalization during the September 8-14 workshop. Read about the EPA grant and the brownfields project goals here (.pdf).

In Ranson, the targeted sites are the shuttered Kidde/Powhatan Brass Foundry, the former Miller Chemical facility and the vacant AB&C warehouse. In Charles Town, the former Peoples Supply complex, a vacant parcel located between E. North Street and the CSX railroad tracks, and portions of the Charles Town Public Works Yard are on the study list. The map below lays it out.

Ranson’s brownfields planning is funded through a new U.S. EPA pilot grant program which awarded us $150,000 to apply to six targeted areas. Click for larger view.

           

All of the targeted areas are located adjacent to or are within existing neighborhoods. So they’re already on the radar for community revitalization and represent opportunities for redevelopment in harmony with community character. Enhancing economic vitality and elevating the quality-of-life for residents are fundamental goals of the upcoming workshop. So identifying ways that turn what are currently detractors into redevelopment opportunities that reinforce those goals will be a major contribution.

Join us for the week of idea testing and planning. Check out the schedule for opportunities to participate in person. And follow us here on these web pages. We’ll be posting news each day during the workshop from September 9 through the closing presentation.

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  • Headline

    SPU Logo

    Ranson and Charles Town's next 100 years begin now.

    From September 8 through the 14th, we're charting the course for our next century. And everyone's invited.

    In an unprecedented week-long mega-workshop, city officials, residents, business community and a team of international consultants will be considering ideas and actions to help guide Ranson, Charles Town, and Jefferson County towards a future rich in opportunity for our families and businesses.



    The Ranson-Charles Town community has been selected by HUD, DOT and EPA to serve as a national model for how small rural cities on the fringe of a major metropolitan area can foster sustainable economic development, transit, and community livability through targeted and strategic planning and infrastructure investments.



    To facilitate this transformative change, planning funds are being used for the following linked and interdependent project components:

    + Develop a new zoning overlay district for downtown, as well as undeveloped, outlying areas of the Cities;

    + Redesign the Fairfax Boulevard-George Street Corridor into a "complete street" with green infrastructure, to promote a better transportation route for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit;

    + Design a new regional Charles Washington Commuter Center in downtown Charles Town that will facilitate access to regional rail and bus transit systems for Ranson, Charles Town and Jefferson County; and

    + Create a master plan for downtown Ranson that spurs job growth and economic development in former dilapidated manufacturing sites.

    It all starts with an opening presentation on September 8.

    “We couldn’t be happier about the way this process is shaping up,” says Ranson Mayor A. David Hamill. “It is our goal to continue evolving Ranson into a vibrant community where residents can live, work, and recreate within cohesive neighborhoods. Exciting things are beginning to happen, and I expect the next 12 to 18 months to be even more exciting as the real work begins to plan our future.”

    Come, and lend your voice. There'll be all kinds of ways to participate, even for events you can't attend in person. So don't miss it.





  • FILES AVAILABLE
    Review adopted files of our Comp Plan update and new zoning option here. FEDERAL GRANTS
    Moving forward, whenever appropriate, you'll see our news posts identify the respective source(s) of project funding with one or more of these icons:

    This video explains the grants, along with the process overall.
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