In December, the Alliance awarded the project to Bowen National Research, a firm specializing in real estate and market analysis. Bowen will complete a three-month residential feasibility study on downtown Charleston, formally referred to as the “Central Business District.”
“There have been small attempts to gauge Charleston’s downtown housing market, but nothing on this level,” said Susie Salisbury, the Alliance’s vice president of community development.
“The Alliance understands that affordable housing in our downtown is desired, but any potential developer is going to have to be convinced that Charleston has the market for downtown housing. The feasibility study is our effort to have the very first tool in our toolbox to help attract and convince developers.”
Bowen representatives will partner with various community leaders and realtors to accurately assess the downtown’s current housing market as well as its potential for future growth.
The study will analyze the area physically bound north by the railroad tracks, south by the Kanawha River, east by Morris Street and west by the Elk River.
Due March 30, 2015, the report will provide the Alliance with the following information:
A full assessment of the downtown’s current housing market; including location, price and forms of existing rental and owner-occupied homes
An assessment of the demand for additional residential housing in the downtown area broken down by type of housing (e.g. multi-family, single-family, etc.), price point
and the demand for rental and/or owner-occupied homes
An inventory of available housing development sites and the identification of the types of residents anticipated to demand downtown housing
In addition, the study will recommend an implementation plan for the Alliance and the City of Charleston to use in recruitment of developers to produce market rate and mixed-use housing. It will identify any barriers to meeting housing gap needs as well as establish a timeline for implementation.
“There is no one panacea for urban development, but if there were, for Charleston, it would be housing,” said Alliance President/CEO Matthew Ballard.
“To create more vibrancy in the core retail area of downtown, it will take a mutual crescendo. We can’t ask businesses to stay open after 5 p.m. or on the weekends if no one is there to support them.
“We can’t ask people to live downtown if it isn’t a place with the amenities people want. It all has to happen together. We have to strike while the iron is hot and encourage developers and individuals to advance the right type of housing.”
The study is primarily funded by the West Virginia Community Participation Program, which was successfully acquired by the Alliance.
“We’re doing our homework. This study is something we want to be able to turnover and use in the community immediately,” Salisbury said.
The Alliance is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the community, improving the economy and creating more jobs in the Kanawha Valley. To learn more about the Charleston Area Alliance, please visit www.CharlestonAreaAlliance.org.