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Plans advance for historic hall in Charles Town

626461_1CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. – The city of Charles Town is moving forward in its plans to renovate historic Charles Washington Hall – a $3.95 million project that will create a public dwelling space.

At last week’s city council meeting, officials held a first reading on an ordinance that would approve a portion of the funding required for renovations for the historic building.

The building, which was constructed in 1874, has became known through the years as a symbol of the nation’s heritage. Charles Washington Hall was built as a replacement for the previous town hall during the Civil War and became the site of the first civil rights demonstration in Jefferson County.

The Charles Town council approved the first reading to secure a $3 million loan by the USDA, with a $200,000 appropriation, according to a plan approved in 2013. The city will be repaying the loan through the capital improvement fund, which is supplied by video lottery.

Once completed, officials hope the 18-month makeover will not only lead to more community engagement, but additional economic revitalization as well.

Charles Town city manager David Mills said Charles Washington Hall is hoping to become a hub for businesses and event opportunities, such as an indoor market, cafe and transit stop.

“When staff is working on anything for a city, it’s always mindful of community and economic development. A vibrant city that has good property values, good sales and things like that are all signs of a healthy city,” Mills said.

While officials are optimistic about the project, they are still working to find other means of funding to bridge the gap for the remaining amount needed to complete the project.

As a result of a combination of factors, Mills said the original bids to complete the renovations came in higher than expected.

“We had hoped the bids would come in under, just because of the down economy. We thought there might have been a little bit more of a competitive nature, but I think that the complexity of the job probably canceled out any savings that we might have expected to get,” Mills said. “The job is complicated; it’s an old building, it’s on the corner of two busy streets and has a lot of traffic control issues.”

The city will move forward with the second reading on the ordinance to approve the USDA loan during next week’s council meeting.

The next city council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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