PAWV sent this letter to Parkersburg's Design & Facade Review Committee the day before its meeting on February 14, 2018. The subject of the meeting was to vote on whether to approve the proposed demolition of the historic Citizens Bank Building located at 401 Market Street. During the meeting, the committee voted unanimously to approve the demolition of the structure. The committee is comprised of Mayor appointees.
Dear Parkersburg Central Downtown Business District Design & Façade Review Committee,
On behalf of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia (PAWV), the statewide non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation, I am requesting the committee to table the proposal to demolish 401 Market Street and allow for public comment and additional discussion regarding WesBanco’s redevelopment project. Part of PAWV’s mission is to advocate for sensitive development and design that incorporates historic buildings such as the Citizens National Bank Building and to preserve existing structures that are the keys to downtown redevelopment.
When expanding this study beyond a 1 block radius, the ratio of building footprint compared to pedestrian and vehicle space dwindles even more (see aeriel view above). This is a common trait of unsustainable and unhealthy cities. It is our opinion that parking lot will not improve the economic climate of the City, however, WesBanco can become a leader in enhancing the historic downtown through their effort. Additionally, there are financial incentives for redevelopment and national trends that can be replicated in Parkersburg in which the building located at 401 Market St. can be preserved while meeting the parking and thoroughfare needs of WesBanco. I have included some of these ideas at the bottom of this letter.
As the statewide nonprofit supporting historic preservation, we can provide many ideas in favor of preserving this historic building in an attempt to convince the committee to vote to table this proposal and even vote “no” to the proposal, but ultimately, I urge you to listen to your citizens. Over 500 people have signed a petition asking you to vote “no” to this proposal. It is important to your residents that you preserve what is left of the downtown. It is a treasure, and it is a place that matters. That is why PAWV chose Parkersburg as its host town for the upcoming West Virginia Historic Preservation conference bringing dollars and energy into your community; you have a lot to offer and potential for redevelopment.
You have active residents that care about historic preservation, and this is an excellent opportunity to show forward thinking for future generations.
Thank you for your service and consideration,
FINANCIAL INCENTIVE – HISTORIC TAX CREDIT
The Citizens National Bank Building has been vacant for over a decade, and its redevelopment has been financially unfeasible in the past. However, as of January 1, 2018, West Virginians can take advantage of a combined state and federal historic tax credit of 45% on income-producing properties. Prior to this increase, the combined state and federal historic tax credit was 30%, but a 45% tax credit on qualifying construction activities (interior and exterior) is a major incentive for banks and property owners to rehabilitate historic properties like the Citizens National Bank building.
Tearing down the Citizens National Bank Building for a parking lot and alley is a short-term answer to a vacant building problem that can be incentivized now for redevelopment. Please run the pro-forma again for redeveloping this property using the historic tax credit figures, and this property could be marketed for rehabilitation in a prime location in downtown Parkersburg. PAWV would be happy to lend its services in reconfiguring a pro-forma to demonstrate whether redevelopment of this building is possible now that the historic tax credit is 40%. And if WesBanco also needs additional space for offices, 401 Market St. offers prime street front and first-floor space that can be redeveloped using the historic rehabilitation tax credit. The bank has acquired and redeveloped a historic property at 33 N. Third St. in Columbus, Ohio. The WesBanco Regional President Lisa Robinson was quoted as saying acquisition is a “huge new step for WesBanco”, and we encourage the committee and WesBanco to work together to consider something similar for Parkersburg.
PARKING GARAGE INSTEAD OF PARKING LOT?
According to Parking Consultant, Gerard Giosa, “Surface parking gobbles up so much land that it begins to negatively affect the character and walkability of a downtown business district. An 800-car parking garage can be constructed on a piece of land that is just 120 feet wide by 270 feet long, and it can be tucked into the center of a downtown block and surrounded by existing and new buildings so that it is hardly visible from the street. By contrast, if we wanted to provide those same 800 spaces in a surface parking lot, the parking lot would have to be the size of four and a half football fields! And it’s almost impossible to assemble that volume of contiguous land in an existing downtown setting.”
There is a service parking lot already connected to the WesBanco property, and a parking garage across the street from the WesBanco property. Has WesBanco considered building a parking garage and thoroughfare on its existing surface lot if the bank has identified that additional parking is needed? This parking garage may even serve as an additional incentive for redevelopment of 401 Market St. Although the up-front costs of the parking garage are more expensive, estimated in 2013 by Giosa at $21,000 per parking space versus $3,000 per parking space in a surface lot, the parking garage can attract additional development by meeting parking needs for the redevelopment of 401 Market St., as well as providing additional parking for the Blennerhasset Hotel. Over time, the parking garage can pay for itself through monthly and day parking for employers in the downtown area.
 Gerard Giosa article can be accessed at http://buildabetterburb.org/financing-parking-garages-qa-with-parking-consultant-gerard-giosa/
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