Launch Slideshow

Chesapeake Energy Eastern Regional Headquarters Architects: Elliott  Associates Architects, Oklahoma City (lead); Silling Associates, Charleston. Completion: Canceled. Brief: $39 million project stopped with about 15% of site work completed; winner, AIA West Virginia 2009 Honor Award for Unbuilt Work.

Charleston, W.Va.

Charleston, W.Va.

  • Chesapeake Energy Eastern Regional Headquarters Architects: Elliott  Associates Architects, Oklahoma City (lead); Silling Associates, Charleston. Completion: Canceled. Brief: $39 million project stopped with about 15% of site work completed; winner, AIA West Virginia 2009 Honor Award for Unbuilt Work.

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    Chesapeake Energy Eastern Regional Headquarters Architects: Elliott Associates Architects, Oklahoma City (lead); Silling Associates, Charleston. Completion: Canceled. Brief: $39 million project stopped with about 15% of site work completed; winner, AIA West Virginia 2009 Honor Award for Unbuilt Work.

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    Silling Associates

    Chesapeake Energy Eastern Regional Headquarters
    Architects: Elliott Associates Architects, Oklahoma City (lead); Silling Associates, Charleston.
    Completion: Canceled.
    Brief: $39 million project stopped with about 15% of site work completed; winner, AIA West Virginia 2009 Honor Award for Unbuilt Work.

  • Haddad Riverfront Park and Schoenbaum Stage Architect: Silling Associates. Completion: 2010. Brief: $2.4 million SBA grant plus $400,000 in private donations upgrades an amphitheater and improves access to downtown.

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    Haddad Riverfront Park and Schoenbaum Stage Architect: Silling Associates. Completion: 2010. Brief: $2.4 million SBA grant plus $400,000 in private donations upgrades an amphitheater and improves access to downtown.

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    Edward Weber

    Haddad Riverfront Park and Schoenbaum Stage
    Architect: Silling Associates.
    Completion: 2010.
    Brief: $2.4 million SBA grant plus $400,000 in private donations upgrades an amphitheater and improves access to downtown.

  • Kanawha County Public Library Architect: ZMM Architects & Engineers, Charleston. Completion: 2012. Brief: $40 million, 120,000-s.f. library is seeking LEED Silver.

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    Kanawha County Public Library Architect: ZMM Architects & Engineers, Charleston. Completion: 2012. Brief: $40 million, 120,000-s.f. library is seeking LEED Silver.

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    ZMM Architects & Engineers

    Kanawha County Public Library
    Architect: ZMM Architects & Engineers, Charleston.
    Completion: 2012.
    Brief: $40 million, 120,000-s.f. library is seeking LEED Silver.

  • University of Charleston East Apartments Architect: Associated Architects, Charleston. Completion: 2010. Brief: $22 million student residence; winner, City of Charleston's 2009 Growing Smart Award.

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    University of Charleston East Apartments Architect: Associated Architects, Charleston. Completion: 2010. Brief: $22 million student residence; winner, City of Charleston's 2009 Growing Smart Award.

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    University of Charleston

    University of Charleston East Apartments
    Architect: Associated Architects, Charleston.
    Completion: 2010.
    Brief: $22 million student residence; winner, City of Charleston's 2009 Growing Smart Award.

Soon after the American Revolutionary War ended, the area now known as Charleston, W.Va.—officially established in 1794—saw its first settlers arrive. The Appalachian region was known for vast salt deposits until 1815, when natural gas was discovered, followed by coal two years later. Today, the state capital has diversified its economy to include education and healthcare, thanks to campuses for West Virginia University and the state’s Community and Technical College System, plus the private University of Charleston.

“People who have a preconceived notion about West Virginia are missing out,” asserts Adam Krason, principal of ZMM Architects & Engineers. “We have very affordable housing, short commutes, quality public and private schools, low crime rates, great cultural institutions like the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and easy access to a variety of outdoor activities.”

Charlie West, as the locals call it, has been somewhat insulated from the larger real-estate roller coaster, in part because it never reached the precipitous highs of other U.S. markets. “We have been lucky in a way,” allows Thomas Worlledge, Charleston-area manager for Wheeling, W.Va.–based McKinley & Associates. “We did not see a boom period, so we did not depend only on the commercial sector for our growth. But because of this lack of private development, we have been dependent on nonprofits or state and local government to drive development.”

Most projects are led by local architects, a point of pride for the Charleston design community. “There’s an assumption that Charleston is too small to have in-town architects that are worth using for large or complicated projects,” says Mark Spencer, senior project architect for Associated Architects. “[But] there are several local architectural firms that have won numerous awards and received national recognition for their designs.”

POPULATION/EMPLOYMENT
Nearly 51,000 residents; -2.7% job growth, first quarter 2010.

OFFICE MARKET
7% Class A vacancy rate on asking rates of $19/s.f.–$23/s.f.

RESIDENTIAL MARKET
Median home sale price, first quarter 2010: $194,600.

MARKET STRENGTHS
• Housing affordability
• Riverfront location
• Abundant natural resources

MARKET CONCERNS
• Youth out-migration
• Aging housing stock
• Coal-based state economy

FORECAST
“There needs to be a long-term vision for what happens here after coal,” says Edward Weber, senior associate at Silling Associates. “[We] need new manufacturing and knowledge-based companies to choose Charleston as a place to invest in. … If public and private entities do not continue to … make the area as attractive as possible … we are in for continued population decline.”