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Old 05-19-2009, 08:21 AM
 
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
424 posts, read 1,082,056 times
Reputation: 146

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My wife and I arrived on a Sunday. Not a typical time to site-see or scout out a location for possible relocation. However, it gave us the opportunity to see how the city flows "off-peak" if you will.

First observation:

Sluggish Hospitality industry:

Everywhere I have every lived including the tiny town of Lancaster, Ohio has had ample options for places to stay (hotels, motels) that were safe, clean and reasonably priced. Not Huntington. We found maybe six hotels altogether. I was truly surprised to see the condition of some of the more well known chains there. We ended up staying in Pullman Plaza because they had a good online special.

Second Observation:

Slack enforcement codes on buildings

I have never seen so many buildings that were falling down and houses un-mowed yards then in Huntington. To me this says that it is too expensive and time-consuming for the city to do anything about. Only in Charleston, SC have I seen almost this many places that had been burned by fire still standing for what it appeared to be years. It was an eye sore that led me to wonder what people two doors down in the nice houses are saying about this boarded up burnt out place that is so close to theirs. Or even made me wonder what the local government thought or where they stood on this issue.

Does anyone know what the local governments plans are to bring this city back?

What is being done to bring the city back to where it was in the 80's when the main industries kept people there? It seems all the good shopping and restaurants and hotels are OUTSIDE of the city now.

Not a very good impression of Huntington. We took a lot of pictures and found some GREAT neighborhoods, but right around the corner from it all was just depressing....


Matt
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Old 05-19-2009, 08:52 AM
 
Location: New Creek, WV
275 posts, read 616,688 times
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I'm sorry you had a bad experience. Not all areas of Huntington are THAT bad. I live in Guyandotte (down from the campus) and it's not like that at all here. Did you see Pullman Square? Downtown is really growing and booming as far as business's go. There are loads of restaurants in that area, as well as about 3 or 4 good hotels. If you travel towards I-64 you hit a bunch of nice hotels too.

The West end, and some areas closer to Kenova and Ceredo are like what you are describing.

The government is currently trying to set it up so this summer our roads are going to be paved (no college in session like during the school year, so better time to do this) and downtown is being "revamped" and getting a face- lift if you will.

People lawns are their own responsibility. No one is going to do that for them. Sadly, some are just too lazy or unmotivated to do it themselves, or they can't afford equipment to do so. We are struggling economically.

Decaying buildings is something we can't seem to afford to get rid of. There are always complaints about the eyesores of the collapsing buildings, yet the city simply can't afford to tear them down. Homeowners can't afford this either...so they stay until someone CAN tear them down.

You have to take the bad with the good. We were in Michigan this past weekend and I'm telling you... I was never so happy to be back in WV in my life. You think our lawns, economy, etc.. is bad? Go to Detroit. My husband's family is in the Nice part right outside the main part of Detroit... and there were HORRIBLE areas of decay. The area seems to be dying.

I hope you do n't judge this great town by just a few bad spots. Not everyplace you go is perfect, and you have to take the bad with the good.

Hope you give the Mountain state a second glance!
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Old 05-19-2009, 11:27 AM
 
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
424 posts, read 1,082,056 times
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This isn't my first trip to Huntington. Yes, I have been to Pullman Square, a diamond in the rough.

I guess my question is, what is WV or the City of Huntington, attempting to do to get themselves out of this 20 years decline? It seems it was so prosporous at one time but since the major steel and railway industry shut downs it is just continuing to die with solid economic plan in place.

3-4 good hotels for an entire city? Pullman Plaza and the Holiday Inn are the only ones downtown that are not run down. Which other hotels are you referring to?

I guess I just didn't see a great town, I saw a town that has depression peppered ALL throughout it. Even in Ritter park area every fourth house is falling apart at the seams. I found a few really nice neighborhoods, but likely those are the ones with houses I could never afford.

Beech Fork State Park was gorgeous, but just like much of the rest I saw, completely neglected and run down througout much of it.

Depressing areas were not exclusively on the West End. They were ALL ALONG Route 60 from the river to I-64 along with many other places.

In terms of entertainment and nightlife..... In progressive cities like Athens Ohio for exmaple, there are still places to go out on a Sunday night to catch live entertainment. This was not an option in Huntington, WV. They have like three venues altogether.

I did visit Ashland briefly and I can say that at least Huntington's river is not completely covered in industrial plants like Ashland.
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Old 05-20-2009, 05:25 AM
 
Location: Elkins, WV
1,981 posts, read 5,225,109 times
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This is what is being done to help revitalize the area.

Create Huntington - made of citizens, business owners, politicians, and students to help bring Huntington back into the spotlight.


YouTube - Create WV - Create Huntington - A video

That should shed some more light on what our plan is.
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Old 05-20-2009, 05:37 AM
 
4,714 posts, read 11,719,534 times
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I appreciate Mattbward's honesty.

I laughed because this past week was the end of school and all the garbage stored since February finally gets put out...the yards are mowed by beerdrinkers saying goodbye, who stagger around squashing the grass and not with machines. Furniture of every description, abandoned. Morgantown looks like a prison riot ensued and everyone escaped.

And thanks, GHO: The business community directed their efforts years ago in community investment, because their investment was at stake.
We are fortunate here in Mo-town. Two great men push the investment, and they have several billion of their own money to give the push some clout.
An electrical contractor was shaking his head the other day as we talked...
He said, "Those guys act like the economy is ok...they're still going full steam."
I replied. "The cheapest time to build is always today...tomorrow will always cost you more."
He shook his head in agreement.

Having Marshall in Huntington will be the driver for you...make your home there and get into government. They need you.
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Old 05-20-2009, 05:44 AM
 
Location: Huntington, WV
4,153 posts, read 6,859,968 times
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To address some of your issues:

Hospitality
I agree with you 100% that Huntington needs more hotels, especially within city limits. They could build a hotel on the East End, near St. Mary's, another one downtown and one on the West End as you head into Ohio. They also need more and better conference centers to go along with these hotels. This is a recognized problem but I'm not sure if anything is in the works yet.

Code Enforcement
Past city administrations have been very lax with regards to code enforcement. The current administration just stepped up last week and said they are taking a zero tolerance policy against high grass and unmaintained properties. There are issuing citations and have begun doing the work and billing for it. The city also never used to do a whole city-wide clean up, they'd just help as requested. Now they, they are doing a clean-up every 6 months to pick up trash, cut weeds, etc.

Part of the issue with these properties is many are out of town owners who don't necessarily care. It's hard dealing with private property when you are a government entity unless the people care. They can't just take over the property and WV law makes it difficult and not necessarily profitable to do so. To tear down these buildings costs a lot of money which they don't often get back from the previous owner and to expect a buyer to pay all of the back taxes, plus cost of demolition plus the cost of the land doesn't often make it attractive to new buyers. But the city is trying. They've ID'ed the buildings that need to be torn down and are taking care of them as quickly as possible. In my opinion, they'd also be well served to ID any vacant buildings and work to get them back on the market in order to make sure they don't fall into such condition. Being proactive generally works better than being reactive.

One thing that may have given you a bad impression downtown is some of the projects they are currently working on. 4th Ave downtown is all torn up right now because they are redoing the streetscape there. They put a cross walk across 4th in front of the Keith Albee and they are putting another one between 8th and 10th Sts. The latter area was closed off is where some additional nightlife businesses and restaurants are, which you may have missed. Right across from Pullman Square, the building with the faded and peeling yellow paint is also being worked on. In fact, they just took the metal flashing off the side last week and right now it looks BAD. But again, they just started and they are turning the upper part of that building into condos. They also just started working on a building on 8th St and it's the same thing. And there are other areas in town where buildings were but new buildings are planned which will cover the sides of the existing buildings (side which weren't meant to be seen).

In terms of night life on a sunday, you won't typically find it anywhere in WV. Currently, WV law states that there can be no alcohol sales on Sunday. Since that is the main draw of bars, they don't open on that day. And if you only saw 3 places, you must have missed a few. Just in the downtown area, there are 2 on 3rd Ave and 5 on 4th Ave. That doesn't include the ones closer to MU and other little piano bar type places. Could Huntington use more? In some ways.

There is also a movement to make things better through community involvement and initiative. It's called Create Huntington and they just unveiled their Comprehensive plan on Monday night. They have ID'ed things that Huntington needs to work on like new hotels/conference facilities, providing better housing, working on image, etc. These things have been noted and are being worked on. As someone who has lived here awhile, the height of the decline was in the late 90's when downtown lost its last department store. Now with Pullman and many of the new businesses opening up, things are getting better. And the best restaurants are actually still in Huntington. They just don't stick out like they do when they are stand alone. There are a ton of great chain and local places, they just aren't concentrated like they are at a mall. And yes, the better shopping is out side of town at the Huntington mall, but they are working to fill that niche. That mall is almost 30 years old though and a new one will have to be built soon. Hopefully, the leaders of Huntington will jump on the opportunity this time rather than running it of somewhere else.

Overall, sorry you had a bad visit but I think if we had been able to meet up, I could have answered/addressed some of these concerns. Things are being done and things are getting better but it takes time. Things didn't get in this way overnight so it'll take some time to make it better but we are headed in that direction. I personally can't wait to see where Huntington is in 5-10 years. Hope this clarifies some things for you and here are some links. Let me know if there's any other way I can help you.

Tim

Create Huntington
Highlawn Neighbors Enhance Property
Huntington Crime Rate Drops 10% From Last Year - WOWK-TV - WOWKTV.com (http://www.wowktv.com/story.cfm?func=viewstory&storyid=59203 - broken link)
No-tolerance stance adopted for blight - The Herald Dispatch
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Old 05-20-2009, 08:22 AM
 
9,407 posts, read 11,474,617 times
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Bailey, please understand I am not trying to argue with you but in fact there are not State laws against bars and restaurants selling alcohol on Sunday after 1pm. In other words, they can't sell it on Sunday mornings... that's it.
There are, however, many people in the Bible Belt (and personally I include Huntington as being part of that) that don't drink on Sunday and many business owners in that area who don't sell it on Sunday on principle. If you go about 100 miles north, you will find that is not the case.
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:11 AM
 
Location: Huntington, WV
4,153 posts, read 6,859,968 times
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From the State ABCA Code Violations for Private Clubs:

Violation H-001 60-7-12(a)(5) SELLING ON SUNDAY

Violation Code Cite Listing (http://www.wvabca.com/viol.htm - broken link)

From alcohollaws.org

"Spirits are sold in retail liquor stores in West Virginia, but these beverages are limited those less than 95% alcohol. Beer and wine are typically available in the grocery or a convenience store, but beer is limited to 6% alcohol. It is illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays by state law, but local ordinances mandate the hours that restaurants, bars, and liquor stores may sell alcohol."
West Virginia Alcohol Laws

There was legislation to change this but I don't think it passed before the deadline.

So yes, state law prohibits selling alcohol on Sunday but local law may set hours. Huntington being in the Bible Belt, as you pointed out, sticks with state law from what I've seen and heard.
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Old 05-20-2009, 09:19 PM
 
Location: Huntington, WV
4,153 posts, read 6,859,968 times
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Here's a cool article linked to from another site that I came across that tackles the very thing we are talking about here. It's entitled "West Virginia is the Future of America—and That’s a Good Thing". It's from a band that visited Huntington recently and the observations they had that changed once they talked to local people and actually saw things in action. Here's the story:

By Duff McKagan

West Virginia is the Future of America—and That’s a Good Thing

My band Loaded have just started to tour our new record, Sick, and our first area of attack has been the American South—the region hit perhaps worst by this most recent economic recession. I say most recent because, again, I want to stress that economic recessions and depressions are cyclical—and we have always come out of them.

Traveling to Huntington, West Virginia, from Augusta, Georgia, by bus takes you straight through the heart of Appalachia and its depleted coal towns and “hollers”—valleys known as hollows, or hollers in the local drawl. This area long ago got used to being ignored when it comes to government infrastructure help. Diane Sawyer did a two-hour expose on poverty in the Appalachian Mountains a few weeks back that was jaw-dropping. The stuff she documented just shouldn’t be happening here in the States—but it is.

Huntington itself is the town that holds Marshall University, of “We Are Marshall” fame. Many people in Huntington have still yet to see this film, as the memory of losing more than 30 of its young men in a single incident still burns like a fresh and jagged cut. On the day of my visit, last Friday, it was the day before the annual spring football scrimmage at Marshall, the culmination of spring practice and a peek at what might be in store for the fall season. An event like this is equivalent to play-off baseball in big cities, a real event. Many alumni from the undefeated team of 1999 were said to be in town. But all I saw on that afternoon were closed shops with “for lease” signs and boarded-up storefronts. To my eye, about 60 percent of the businesses were shut down.

As I walked across town, I wondered to myself whether this place would make it through. I looked at a decrepit 15-storey building that once housed a bank, no doubt making loans to earnest young businesses and families at a time when there was plenty and growth had no horizon. Coal was king. Those times, to my northern and untrained eye, were long gone. When I got to the venue for sound check (V-club on 12th), the first signs of how wrong I was in my assumptions about this small town began to become apparent.

The club itself was one of the best of its size that I’ve seen anywhere. Attention to sound and lights was second to none and there was an air of cool that I wasn’t expecting. (I was probably expecting the club-owners to be a bit downtrodden after the walk through town.) A parcel had been delivered to the club from a local investment firm, inviting me to talk with them about new opportunities there in town. They also wanted to talk to me about the things I write about in Playboy, and to explain how a small town like Huntington, once reliant on income from coal, was making a full and vibrant turnaround. I asked the club-owners about all the boarded-up storefronts. They made me feel foolish, revealing that some of the places were actually refurbishing while construction was so cheap.

After sound check, I walked in the darkening night to the hotel for a pre-gig shower. What I saw as dismal in the daytime became lively and dare I say beautiful that evening. While I was approached by a few people on street-corners for a handout (an ever more frequent occurrence wherever you go), it was the people going into brightly-lit and freshly-scrubbed restaurants and bars that turned my head. The streets were humming with life and an unspoken hope for what is to come.

I began to think at that moment that a story like Huntington’s could very well epitomize the true American story. The people here know what adversity is and don’t sulk in its shadow when they very well could (without being blamed one bit). No, this town knows how to dust itself off, put its blinders on, and forge ahead, learning from its history but not getting mired in it.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:45 PM
 
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
424 posts, read 1,082,056 times
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They offered to sell us beer with our dinner at 6pm on Sunday.... So alcohol can be sold on Sunday in Huntington...
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