by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Hilton Garden Inn, Pikeville, KY, managed by H & W Development
Hilton Garden Inn, Pikeville, KY, managed by H & W Development

The Huntington Municipal Development Authority has approved the sale of 2.1 acres on the upper Route 10 facing section of Kinetic Park. HMDA voted to sell the property to H & W Hotels for $699,601.

Tom Bell, executive director of HMDA, told the board that a letter of agreement and down payment have been received. Bell said, “it is (to be) a little bit upscale” than the two hotels at Kinetic Park. A Marriott has been rumored, but the franchise is unknown.

He indicated that the developers wanted the hotel to be seen from Route 10, rather than Interstate 64. It will not have a restaurant or bar, but otherwise will be full service. Bell suspects the structure will be three stories in height.

Earlier in the year, the Authority voted to ease requirements for top level development.

However, Bell brought additional good news to the members: HMDA is applying for a $200,000 brownfields study grant which would encompass the riverfront at the edge of 13th Street to 26th Street. Properties along the riverfront would be studied, as well as larger areas such as the ACF factory.

Dr. Cal Kent asked Bell whether this potential grant impacted the recently revived discussion of locating a baseball stadium, hotel and other industrialization in the studied area.

“We are not in a position to confirm” at this preliminary stage the specifics of the possible outcome of the planning grant, if it is awarded to Huntington.

No private developers have stepped forward. HMDA has not spoken with the billionaire owner of ACF, either.

Bell explained that the possible grant stems from the potential to self-remediate the possibly contaminated industrial land (i.e. brownfields). A part of the planning could involve commercial and industrial reuse of the lands. “We’d bring [some] middle income jobs jack,” he said.

Finally, HMDA discussed HUD loan history and accounting decisions for the former Huntington High School and Douglas Center. While the former HHS has been paid off as of July 2014, the establishment of Obamacare has been difficult for the free medical clinic located in the Douglas Center, 1448 Tenth Avenue, which houses Ebenezer Medical Outreach.  They are working on a plan to turn the facility over to Marshall's Medical School.

Bell indicated that MU would assume the bond payments on Douglas.

However, Dr. Calvin Kent, former city councilman and MU business school dean, expressed concern that financial statements would show HMDA carrying a $4.1 million dollar loss on the unpaid portion of Douglas. "What's this. I'm lost," he told Bell.

Bell indicated this was a "write off, paper" loss, explaining that the loans should have been on the city's books , not HMDA. "The Liens are in the name of the city," Bell said. HMDA would establish a reserve for "bad debts" should the discussed assumption of the Douglas loan by MU not occur.