Both the historic Willard Hotel and B&O Station in Grafton could benefit from recent funding obtained by the Vandalia Heritage Foundation through appropriations by its founder, First District Congressman Alan B. Mollohan.
The funds, awarded through a HUD grant program specifically aimed at economic development, will be used not only for the Taylor County projects, but also for the Cottrill Opera House in Thomas and additional projects in Arthurdale and Kingwood.
Vandalia was created by Mollohan to help bring financing and technical expertise to local groups working to redevelop historic structures in their communities.
He set aside the money last fall through his position as top-ranking Democrat on the House appropriations subcommittee that funds HUD.
"All across northern West Virginia, we see historic commercial buildings that are either unused or under-used. That is why I established Vandalia: to provide expert counsel in redeveloping these buildings for new, productive uses," he said.
According to Grafton City Manager Kevin Stead, the funding could be a shot in the arm for the two historical sites in that area.
"If everything can work out to be restored, and it looks especially favorable for the depot, it would be an asset for Main Street, Grafton," Stead said.
"They're wanting to restore the depot to as close as they can to how it was originally built, and then find tenants," he added.
Mollohan said that's the primary reason behind Vandalia.
"The new programs are designed to make it far more feasible for companies to locate in historic buildings -- and in the process, help to revitalize downtown business districts that have struggled in recent years," the congressman said.
Vandalia plans to launch two types of programs: Financing and training, he said.
The financing programs will help small businesses acquire and renovate historic buildings. They also will provide a source of capital for product development, operations and related activities.
The training programs will be geared to small construction contractors. They will help contractors acquire the skills needed to restore and renovate historic structures, addressing code compliance and other building safety issues. Both craftsman-level training and apprenticeships are planned.
"Ensuring the revitalization of the signature structures in our towns and cities is one of the keys to allowing these communities to experience the economic prosperity that they deserve," Mollohan said.
"Vandalia's work in support of these ongoing projects and its development and concentration of expertise in the field of economic development will pay dividends throughout the First District," he said.
Mollohan initially secured $2 million to expand the work of the foundation. However, a later appropriations bill, which he opposed, contained an across-the-board cut that took away $150,000.
The Vandalia Heritage Foundation and its sister organization, the Vandalia Redevelopment Corp., are non-profit entities established in 1998.
Both are guided by boards made up of experts in preservation, real estate and redevelopment.
Staff writer Pam Marra can be reached at 626-1439.