Last week, a local developer announced plans to construct 15 new condos in the former Kyle Furniture building in the warehouse district in Charleston’s East End. Some of those condos would overlook the outfield of Appalachian Power Park, giving residents a view of baseball games during the summer.
The condos would be the first residential development built in the warehouse district, and city officials have said the condos may spur development in nearby buildings, thereby making the warehouse district into a viable neighborhood.
Of course, while such development integrated with a ballpark is new for Charleston, it seems to be part of a much larger trend nationwide. In both major and minor league baseball, cities and teams are seeking to put their stadiums in downtown areas. Instead of a suburban venue surrounded by vast, empty parking lots when games aren’t happening, modern stadiums are often built right in a city block (Appalachian Power Park is no exception).
PNC Park in Pittsburgh, for example, has sparked new restaurants and bars on the city’s North Shore. In Washington, D.C., the construction of Nationals Park is helping fuel new development in the Navy Yard neighborhood. The Ballpark Village development in St. Louis, another mixed-use project, will open next year.
Granted, those projects are all located in major cities with major league franchises. But that doesn’t mean that small and mid-sized cities can’t take advantage of the ballpark, either.
Here’s a look at two recent developments around the country where neighborhood development and the development of a stadium have gone hand-in-hand (though not always without bumps along the way). Both minor league baseball teams in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Greenville, S.C., are Class-A, just like the West Virginia Power.
Parkview Field, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Parkview Field is the home of the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, a team that used to be called the Fort Wayne Wizards when it played at a facility on the northern edge of the city. In 2009, Parkview Field opened in downtown Fort Wayne, helping spark new investment and construction downtown known as the Harrison Square project.
Harrison Square now contains a Courtyard by Marriott hotel and a mixed-use development building that contains retail space on the first floor and condominiums on the upper floors (similar to what is planned for the Kyle Furniture building). The condos even have balconies on the field side of the building! Since the mixed-use part of the project opened in the past year, several of the retail spaces have been filled, including a credit union and an Irish bar.
Fluor Field, Greenville, S.C.
Fluor Field opened in 2006 as the home of the Greenville Drive, a team in the same league as the West Virginia Power. The closest development to the stadium is the Field House at West End – also a mixed-use development featuring condos on the upper floors overlooking the stadium. Retail space on the first floor has also started to fill up.
The stadium’s presence is one piece of a revitalization of Greenville’s West End, maybe not too different than Charleston’s East End?
It’s important to remember that every city is different, with different opportunities and different situations. According to the Imagine Charleston Downtown Redevelopment Plan, Appalachian Power Park brings 500,000 visitors to the neighborhood annually. If the Kyle Furniture project is successful, who knows what could happen?