BEECH BOTTOM – With the acquisition of a vacant Beech Bottom home, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle has expanded its scope to include the rehabilitation of vacant houses. BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said the economic development organization has entertained ways to make more housing available for the employees of new businesses that may come to Brooke and Hancock counties, but outside circumstances led to the house at Clendenon Street being its first project. Ford said Wells Fargo, the international banking and financial services company, acquired the house after it had been foreclosed upon and asked Beech Bottom officials to assist in renovating and marketing it. Beech Bottom Mayor Becky Uhlly said, “It was the perfect storm because we got this e-mail from Wells Fargo asking us to take over this house and we weren't in a position to do that.” Uhlly said she and others were aware the BDC was considering pursuing housing development and brought the matter to the agency's attention. Ford said housing is an area the BDC board has agreed unanimously to enter cautiously by taking on projects with the best chance of a quick turnover, and a partnership with Wells Fargo on the Beech Bottom house allows that. He said through its Community Urban Stabilization Program, Wells Fargo partners with faith-based and other nonprofit groups to make housing available to people with low to moderate incomes. Through the partnership, Wells Fargo paid all back taxes owed on the house and all closing costs, while the BDC has agreed to pursue renovations needed to make it viable for a new owner. Ford said new plumbing, windows and floors and possibly a new roof are improvements eyed for the structure, but he believes it's feasible to have the house ready for sale in 90 to 120 days. Uhlly said the house has been vacant only since spring and isn't likely to be considered dilapidated. “The house isn't that far gone. It just needs fixed up and it will be a nice little home for somebody,” she said. Uhlly said Beech Bottom Council will form a volunteer board to consider potential occupants, with preference given to those who plan to live there long-term. Ford said a condition of the Wells Fargo program is that potential homeowners are educated in financial planning so they will be prepared to make regular payments on the house. The house sits on a small lot of about 5,000 square feet that also is occupied by a small storage building and isn't far from state Route 2. Video footage and more information has been posted by the BDC on Youtube at Beech Bottom house. It's not the first time the BDC has used Youtube to market properties, as videos about the former Taylor, Smith &Taylor Pottery site and former Brooke Glass site are among several featured in videos posted by the group. Ford said the BDC continues to eye the possible construction of a high-end multi-unit housing complex for Bethany. It's an idea he's discussed with Bethany Council and will share with Bethany College officials this week, he said.
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