At the Partnership Luncheon of the Jefferson County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, hosted at NCTC last week, Ranson City Manager Andy Blake shared some of the significant successes the small town has had as well as some big plans for its future.
Blake was the featured speaker at the luncheon where he presented a PowerPoint presentation outlining the partnerships Ranson has made in redeveloping brownfields and creating a sustainable community.
The little town of Ranson, which adjoins Charles Town, was once only 640 acres, Blake said. With voluntary annexations the town limits now include 6,000 acres. The town was once reliant on industry, but now industrial jobs are long gone. In their place are sites that need to be redeveloped: brownfield sites.
In order to reuse the areas within the town that were once industrial facilities, Ranson has sought and received multiple grants from the federal government. Beginning in 2001 with a $250,000 grant from the EPA, the town has sought more funding and received a total of $12,170,000 from the EPA, an ARRA grant, DOT Tiger II/HUD Challenge, DOT Tiger IV, National Wildlife Foundation and other grants.
Blake explained that the city has been the recipient of three EOA Hazardous Brownfields Assessment grants and has aggressively pursued grant funding and implementation of smart grown development strategies.
"We have strong leaders and partners who will stick to the vision and will allow failure along with success," Blake said. He shared that their have been failures along the road as well, but celebrating even a small success helps to keep the vision as a top priority.
He explained that by using eight core principles, Ranson has adopted an integrated redevelopment approach that blends transportation, housing, environment, economic sustainability and job creation. Those principles include: (1) Local character builds regional economies; (2) Strong core communities make strong foundations; (3) There is a place for everything and everything has its place; (4) Affordable living includes housing, transportation, energy, recreation and shopping; (5) Green infrastructure supports sustainable communities; (6) Neighborhoods are the building blocks to strong communities; (7) Private buildings and public infrastructure work together to shape public space and building community character; and (8) Working together creates bigger opportunities.
Blake shared information on future expansions of American Public University System. That entity has bought numerous properties within Ranson and Charles Town, some that even straddle the border between the two towns. Working together, the three entities are bringing economic opportunities to the towns via jobs. APUS is focusing on green construction and the towns are following suit with plans for everything from rain gardens to aid in wastewater management to landscaping of the upcoming extension of Fairfax Boulevard.
That boulevard project, which will open a direct route from Home Depot to the courthouse in Charles Town, has been bid out and the contract awarded, Blake shared. The total cost of the contract comes in at $9,400,000. Streetscape improvement is a major factor in the plan for the boulevard.
Important to the town, Blake said, is walkability. The connection between old-town Ranson and new areas including Potomac Marketplace will be top priority. Coming to that area in the immediate future, he said, will be the new Frank Theater which will offer Imax theaters, arcade, 16-lane bowling and other facilities. The $14 million project has been approved and will begin construction shortly.
Other economic and agricultural based projects are also underway in the City of Ranson. For more detailed information on these and other projects on which Ranson is focusing, visit www.RansonRenewed.com.