(07/26/2001)
Reprinted From The State Journal - The Voice of Business in West Virginia

Large development under way in Kanawha County - July 16, 2001

Article Date: 7/20/2001
Author: JOANN C. ELMER

CHARLESTON Making something out of nothing is what Ronald Lane, owner and president of Ronald Lane Inc. (RLI), said could bring many new commercial opportunities to the Elk River District of Kanawha County. With no potential investors and no confirmed occupants, Lane said he is taking a risk on a new site development near Route 119, located outside Charleston on Newhouse Branch Road.

"This is a risky undertaking to just take a piece of land and develop it without knowing what will fill the space, but this valley would be a great location for commercial property," Lane said.

"Our business is to buy property in the rough and develop it to its fullest potential."

Of the estimated 268 acres owned by RLI in the area, Lane said about 40 acres will be available to build on for commercial use.

"There are various types of businesses that like to have locations outside of city limits for tax purposes and this location is ideal for that," Lane said.

He said 104 of the 268 acres, that are located within Charleston city limits, could be available for residential development. These acres connect to three roads leading into Charleston, including Hills Dale Drive.

The remaining property will be used for access roads and other developments. Lane estimates 1,500 feet of a new access road, with a six to 12 percent grade, will be opened on the property.

He said the site, which is visible from Interstate 77 near mile post 104, would be a good location for service-oriented businesses or one large warehouse. There is even the possibility of adding a small lot to the front of the site to accommodate another facility, he said.

RLI has already invested about $400,000 to purchase the property and could invest another $600,000 to complete the access road, Lane said. He estimates the property value could reach $2.5 million by the project's completion.

While rumors may be spreading about what type of development will be located in the area, Lane said he does not know what will fill the space.

"A developer from Kanawha County Planning heard we were going to put something like 700 houses here, when in truth, we were targeting this space for commercial use," Lane said. "As of right now, we have no prospects but it is always curious to see what rumors will stir up next."

The site development began in May and is scheduled to conclude in November. Currently, RLI's focus is to build an access road into the area and develop a section of the property to accommodate an undetermined commercial facility, Lane said.

"I think the land has a great deal of potential, especially since it is right across the interstate from the airport," Lane said.

The property has access to natural gas and electricity. Two utilities not developed in the area are a water system and sewage system.

"We are working on getting water lines brought in and since most people around here are still using a septic system, we might have to invest in bringing in a sewer system," Lane said.

Lane, who bought the property acre by acre, said the location, in all considerations, is a great investment. He said it only took 30 minutes of examining the property to decide how to maximize its efficiency.

Lane said he is also trying to get Gov. Bob Wise's office to update Newhouse Branch Road.

"We've talked with the governor's office in hopes to find ways to improve the road but money is tight right now," Lane said. "I know a lot of people go to the state with big plans but we're actually putting the time and money into this development."

In addition to making the site accessible, Lane said he would consider building a structure to a business's specifications if they showed interest in the property.

"It is definitely an option for us (RLI) to build a facility to accommodate a business that would like to lease the property," he said. "We have done similar projects in the past."

Ronald Lane Inc. completed a similar development in Fairplain with a 18,620-square-foot building on 4.6 acres of land in 1998. The company also owns property in other areas including Mason and Ritchie counties. Lane said his company is always looking for new property to develop.

RLI began as a pipeline construction company in 1979. In 1999 Lane said he stopped the pipeline business altogether and focused primarily on property development.

"I really just got burnt out in the pipeline business because it was becoming more and more about the bottom line and not about safety."

RLI, which is located in Arnoldsburg, maintains 12 employees. He said development projects were originally meant to be like work camps between pipeline jobs.

"After awhile, when I decided to get out of the pipeline business, this type of work seemed like a good way to shift the business," Lane said. "With these projects we work from beginning to end and can enjoy the finished project. It is all very worthwhile."

For more information about the site, contact Ronald Lane Inc. at 304-655-8237.


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