Officials: Parkersburg development on upswing

PARKERSBURG – South Parkersburg is an area ripe for development, and city officials hope various incentives bring new businesses and housing to that area.

“South Parkersburg along Division Street is one of the areas I think is really ripe for development,” said Mayor Bob Newell. “There are actually several pieces of commercial property available there, and we’ve seen other businesses coming into that area.”

Newell pointed to businesses such as Dunkin Donuts, which opened in September, a planned Camden Clark Medical Center Primary Care office and a planned Speedway gas and convenience station as examples of development. Newell said he expects more businesses to pop up due to Corridor D.

“A lot of things will go in there because of the corridor,” he said. “We’ve also had good luck offering incentives to businesses.”

Development Director Ann Conageski said the city offers breaks on Building and Occupation Tax, also known as B&O, to businesses which develop vacant properties and unused buildings. The incentive requires renovation of a vacant property and a promise to occupy the building for five years to qualify.

Conageski said while the B&O incentives are city-wide, they have often been used to attract businesses to Division Street and downtown Parkersburg. Several hotel projects are in various stages in the downtown area, something Newell said is desperately needed.

“We focus on businesses, and for good reason, but we really would love to get some more housing inside the city,” he said.

Bringing permanent residents to downtown will be key in encouraging small businesses to locate there, and Newell said temporary housing is becoming even more important due to an influx of long-term renters involved with the gas drilling industry.

“We need more of that,” Newell said. “We need more housing inside the city.”

Conageski said B&O incentives and the need for temporary housing have led to more interest from developers in downtown properties. The Uptowner Inn, for example, which sat vacant for many years was recently purchased and will be revamped as a long-term rental property aimed at gas industry workers.

Conageski also said the Emerson Corridor remains an area of focus for new businesses and industry.

“As you head out toward the interstate, that area is part of the city’s comprehensive plan and is always an area we are looking to develop,” she said.

Newell said he remains optimistic the city of Parkersburg will see more businesses and housing emerge as the nation moves out of a recession and into better economic times.

“I think as we crawl out of this recession you are going to see more development and more demand for development,” he said.