HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Just as Huntington is struggling with the push of downtown revitalization and the pull of drug and vandalism crimes in the same area, one businessman is taking a gamble with a hefty investment. He's fighting crime while taking on two new building projects.
"We've tried to consider a number of considerations where folks would feel comfortable and feel safe when you're in a downtown setting," Dr. Bill Ratcliff said. "We added light and surveillance."
Safety was priority one for Ratcliff when he took on a major renovation of a building at the corner of 10th Street and 6th Avenue. But, to understand the why, you have to look back and the how.
It was January 2007 when the Ratcliff Place burned down at the other end of the block at 10th Street and 5th Avenue. The building was home to Tri-State Eyecare run by Ratcliff, his brother Chris and several other businesses.
Three years later, the Ratcliffs are finally starting to rebuild. Construction is underway on the new Tri-State Eyecare Center. But it wasn't an easy decision to decide to rebuild in the same place.
“My brother Chris and I were approached about whether we were going to move outside the city and get away from some of the B&O tax or stay in the city. We made the decision we wanted to stay in the city,” Dr. Ratcliff said.
That decision to stay led to another decision.
“Once we made that decision, we were looking to bring that corner back to life on 5th Avenue and saw down the street there were some concerns with this property,” Dr. Ratcliff said.
He went on to say, "There was a bad element beginning to show evident behind where we were going start our construction -- drug dealing, prostitution and lots of things going on around this building and all the apartments."
Fellow businessman Scott Archer, who owns Archer's Flowers in the lower level of the building, shared a similar sentiment.
"It was horrible," he said. "We had a lot of problems upstairs with 10 to 12 apartments. There was a lot of noise, a lot of drugs up there, everything. It wasn't a good element to have around here."
Archer's Flowers is celebrating 90 years -- 82 of them in this building. But the growing crime problem was starting to hurt.
"We even had a lady call from her car one time because she did not want to get out of her car and come in," Archer said.
So, Dr. Ratcliff came in and renovated from the ground up.
"My wife said we have to approach these people about moving, but I'm concerned that we're going to have to be looking over our shoulder at someone who's really upset about this," Dr. Ratcliff said. "So, we actually paid them to leave to make sure it was a positive impact to them, too. They were getting to move on and being paid to do so."
Downstairs, opportunities for new business to move in. Upstairs, there are three luxury condos with all of the bells and whistles -- from hardwood and marble fireplaces to detailed moldings and custom design in the bathrooms. The Ratcliffs loved the location so much they designed one of the condos for themselves. Outside, garages and security cameras are around the building.
There are two condos available for purchase upstairs and four business spots available downstairs.