Homes demolished at Cumberland Gateway site

Demolition work takes place Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, at the future site of the Cumberland Gateway business development along Maryland Avenue. The groundbreaking for the project has been set for Dec. 18, officials said Tuesday, Dec. 8.

CUMBERLAND — The groundbreaking for the Cumberland Gateway project has been set for Dec. 18, Matt Miller, executive director of the Cumberland Economic Development Corp., said during a Tuesday meeting.

City officials said in November that the groundbreaking was expected to take place by the end of last month.

The planned commercial plaza — sometimes called the Rolling Mill project — will occupy space off eastbound Interstate 68 at Exit 43D between Maryland Avenue and Park Street, and is slated for a hotel, restaurants, a convenience store and shops.

The ceremony will be held at the site at 1:30 p.m., Miller said.

“This marks a very important and long-awaited milestone with this project,” Miller said. “While the project has had its fair share of trials, tribulation and criticism, it is important to keep in mind that it was never anticipated that this would be an easy undertaking.”

Cumberland Gateway represents “a very unique situation” for economic development in the city, Miller said, and the sort of “bold strategy” local officials should take to spur future investment.

Officials had been concerned with how to best address “the void of private sector investment in our area for commercial purposes, to address a growing blight issue within the community, to take steps toward right-sizing our community,” and provide space and potential opportunities down the road when conceiving the project, Miller said.

“Hindsight is always 20/20 in projects such as this, and I’d be lying if I said we didn’t experience certain roadblocks along the way that we may have been able to prevent, but a certain level of that should be expected with a project of this magnitude,” Miller said.

Selected in 2015, the 3.5-acre site originally housed 69 properties. The project has been the subject of some controversy in the past, as some of the homeowners in the affected area refused to sell their homes to the city. Local officials and developers ultimately arrived at a “build-around” solution.

“All things considered, I think this project has accomplished all of its goals and then some, and while it may not have happened within a time frame of what some might consider a reasonable expectation, myself included,” Miller said. “But the fact of the matter is we are here now with an optimistic outlook towards growth in our state.”

Cumberland Mayor Ray Morriss thanked Miller for his work in seeing the project through.

It has been a “long time coming, and I think a lot of lessons were learned along the way,” Morriss said. “It’s great to see we’re at that moment in time where we can see some success and see some work being done. I think it bodes well for the future of the rest of the Maryland Ave project and future projects in that area.”

Lindsay Renner-Wood is a reporter for the Cumberland Times-News, covering West Virginia and more. Follow her on Twitter @LindsayRenWood, email lrenner-wood@times-news.com or call 304-639-4403.

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