CHARLESTON — Next month, Charleston will play host to the 2016 #WVBrownfields Conference, West Virginia's foremost redevelopment event.
The conference, set for Sept. 7-8, is hosted by the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers, an umbrella organization that looks to endorse economic development and community health through the redevelopment of brownfield sites. The organization currently has two locations in the state of West Virginia and the September conference is their keynote, statewide event.
A brownfield site refers to any piece of real property compromised by the presence of a dangerous pollutant or contamination, thus complicating the development of the property. Brownfield sites can be residential as well as commercial and industrial and are prevalent in both rural and urban environments. Without proper attention and procedure, property of this nature cannot be revitalized or transitioned for reuse.
The West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers were created in 2005 to empower communities in the redevelopment of local brownfield sites. According to their website, the organization “promote(s) and coordinate(s) the development of brownfield property by providing training and technical assistance, facilitating site preparation efforts, engaging community involvement, as well as by helping communities with grant writing and leveraging project funding.”
Their September conference is aimed at bringing together community stakeholders from around the state in order to provide constructive assistance and facilitate dialogue regarding brownfield redevelopment. Ric Cavender, the executive director for the administrative collaborative Charleston Main Streets, will be kicking off the event Sept. 7.
“Its really good see them [the Assistance Centers] take this next step and bring this conference to Charleston, not only to celebrate their mission and what they have achieved so far, but also provide resources, new ideas and case studies of things happening across the state regarding reuse and revitalization of brownfield sites,” Cavender told The West Virginia Record.
Cavender’s collaborative, Charleston Main Streets, is dedicated to economic development in Charleston, and Cavender said he is excited for the learning possibilities afforded by the up-and-coming event.
"A conference like this will provide the opportunity for developers and people involved in redevelopment to share ideas, successes, and also swap back and forth best practices,” he said.
The conference will attract a broad range of stakeholders from across the state, playing host to economic development professionals, real estate developers, state officials, environmental professionals, entrepreneurs, bankers and investors. Programming for the event will feature instructive sessions pertaining to all aspects of brownfield redevelopment, including interactive workshops, specialty training on remediation, two networking receptions and the inaugural Central Appalachian Regional Brownfields Summit on Sept. 8.
Cavender emphasized the importance of the WV Brownfields Assistance Centers and its conference to economic development at large in West Virginia.
“We have a lot of these sites that were once used for other purposes that if not properly paid attention to, can't be redeveloped into that new apartment or retail center or playground, so having this resource available to us, a specialized resource, is really crucial,” he said.
Cavender has an expansive sense of understanding for economic development in the state of West Virginia through his redevelopment work in Charleston.
“Brownfield redevelopment is apart of a multi-piece puzzle for economic redevelopment for the whole state," he said. "It doesn't just apply in urban areas or suburban areas or in rural areas. This concept of brownfield redevelopment applies across the board. Anyone who is doing redevelopment work across the state of West Virginia can really benefit from this event.”
The #WVBrownfields Conference will be held at the Charleston Marriott Town Center in Charleston.