Work on business center to begin this fall

BUCKHANNON — The Upshur County Development Authority hopes to bid out plans for the construction of a new knowledge and innovation-based business center that will be located in downtown Buckhannon as early as August, the executive director of the UCDA said Wednesday.
UCDA executive director Rob Hinton said the agency recently hired the Thrasher Group of Bridgeport to undertake the architectural and engineering work on the Upshur County Knowledge and Innovation Business Center, which will be located at the corner of Spring and Main streets and is expected to generate approximately 70 high-tech jobs over a nine-year span.
“We haven’t picked a date for groundbreaking yet, but we just engaged officially with the architect and engineer and we’re doing some engineering and site surveying,” Hinton said. “We’re going to start moving forward with specific designs of the building interior, because we already know what the outside of it is going to look like.”
Hinton said the UCDA hopes to bid out the project in August and would like construction to begin in September or October.
“Our goal is to have everything designed and ready to put the project out to bid sometime in August,” Hinton said. “I don’t know if anything will come up or if we will run into any hurdles that will slow us up, but we’re hoping to put the project out to bid in August and hopefully start construction at the end of September or by the beginning of October.”
The UCDA got word in August 2016 that it had been awarded a $2,285,049 grant to construct the center through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Partnership for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization initiative, a program made possible by then-President Barack Obama’s push to assist communities affected by the downturn in the coal industry. Following a public meeting at which the development authority fielded a variety of questions from city council members as well as concerned citizens, council voted to transfer the property at the corner of Spring and Main streets to the UCDA in May 2016. The property had once been earmarked as the location of a potential visitor’s center.
Hinton said the three-story building has been scaled back slightly from a 27,000-square-foot project to a 23,400-square-foot structure due to the fact that the UCDA didn’t receive the entire $3 million it applied for. The UCDA had applied for $1.5 million from the EDA and $1.5 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission; however, while the agency received more than it anticipated from the EDA, the ARC did not award the UCDA any funds for the project.  
“It’s going to be 23,400 (square feet) based on the fact that we requested $3 million in grant funds and only got $2.3 million,” Hinton said. “The feds allowed us the opportunity to reduce the size, and we took advantage of that.”
Based on those reductions, Hinton said the center will likely cost about $3.3 million, with $1 million of that amount to come from a loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority. It’s expected to feature walk-up retail stores on the first floor and office space on the second and third floors. Also included in the design will be a “maker lab,” which will enable entrepreneurs to create prototypes of products using tools such as 3-D printers and Computer Numerical Controlled Routers, or computer-controlled cutting machines, Hinton said.
If all proceeds smoothly, the UCDA is hoping to open the building sometime in September or October 2018.

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