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City hopes to resemble ‘coal camp’


City leaders are considering rebuilding parts of downtown Beckley to look like a late-1920s coal camp.

Members of the Beckley Intermodal Gateway steering committee are reviewing a $24 million proposal unveiled recently that includes buildings designed to resemble long-lost Beckley landmarks that could be occupied by local businesses. The drawings also feature an ice skating rink and an observation tower reachable by a cable car or elevator.

“When you think about the whole state of West Virginia, it’s about coal,” Dan Bickey, president of Mine Power Systems and chairman of the committee said in presenting the idea. “People like nostalgia. They like ‘old.”‘

Supporters of the plan said the city could draw from the estimated 50,000 people who visit the Beckley Exhibition Coal Mine each year and about 200,000 visitors of Tamarack, a showcase for artisans across the state.

Committee member C. Richard Daniel, owner of Daniel Vineyards, said he remembers the Raleigh County coal camps of his childhood and recalled a bustling downtown with shoeshine shops, upscale clothing stores, theaters and other amenities.

“This is the good stuff I grew up with,” he said. “We’re not about whitewater rafting. That’s Fayetteville. We’re Beckley, and all around Beckley were coal camps. We want what we are.”

The project has been made possible through a $20 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority and a 20 percent match from the city.

The economic and transportation improvement project geared toward revitalizing downtown Beckley now calls for a new parking facility, small cultural center, new city hall, new police department, walking trails, gardens and more on a 5-acre area site.

Information from: The Register Herald, www.registerherald. com

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