The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 9, 2012

Parkways has eye on additional land

An 8.5-acre tract across from Tamarack might not seem like much land in the grand scheme, but it could prove to be a profitable deal for the West Virginia Parkways Authority, if it can be grabbed at the appraised value.

In a board vote Thursday, the Turnpike’s general manager was authorized to approach the owner, J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, with a $20,000 offer.

“Right now, there’s no access to the property,” Greg Barr said.

“What we’re looking at is if we get that 8.5 acres at appraised value, it could be very beneficial to any future development of this area around Tamarack.”

Looking into the future, Barr suggested a major influx prompted by the Boy Scouts of America complex in Fayette County will demand additional hotel-motel rooms in Beckley.

Next summer, The Summit Bechtel Reserve at Glen Jean is expected to draw thousands of Scouts and family members into this region for a jamboree.

“At some point, everybody feels like, maybe within the next five years, after the Boy Scouts camp matures, and with the growth that seems to be occurring in the Beckley area, there will be a demand for development — more hotels,” Barr said.

“That property could lend itself to making that a more attractive use for the land over there.”

For the past couple of years, the Turnpike’s governing board has sought to entice a developer to buy or lease 80 acres surrounding Tamarack for any of a number of uses, although the No. 1 priority has been more hotel-motel space.

So far, however, no concrete offers have surfaced, and with the economy in neutral, Barr suggested it could be some time before the authority gets them.

“There’s no real movement,” he said.

“There’s just, every now and then, a little call and people asking about it. We still haven’t come out of an economic situation where things are booming. We’re hopeful that there will be that day coming sometime soon which will free up financing for development. Money is kind of tight. I think people are a little hesitant to invest a lot with the uncertainty of the economy.”

In another development at the Beckley travel plaza, Barr advised the board that the authority will provide additional space for HMS Hosts which experienced growing pains after introducing a reach-in delicatessen with fresh fruit and vegetables a year ago.

HMS initially wanted to use a closed shower room for truckers to prepare sandwiches and package fruit, but the authority recently moved to revive a place for over-the-road haulers to freshen up.

Besides a prep room, he said, HMS also wanted office and storage space, so the administration agreed to provide that in lieu of the Cinnabon Hershey concept at the plaza.

Closing that down and installing the deli would only require vertical reach-in coolers, and the extra space for storage has been found in the basement warehouse, Barr said.

“So we’re going to do all that,” he said.

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