PARKERSBURG – An exit allowing people to travel north on Murdoch Avenue is needed to help the Park Shopping Center land a tenant for the former Big Bear space, a representative of the owner said.
“I think that the prospects are wanting that exit out of the center,” said Ron Salter, president of Salter and Associates, a marketing firm representing the Park Shopping Center and its owner, Brad Glazer.
Salter declined to identify what companies are interested in the property, but he said if one of them came, it could mean 300 full – and part-time jobs, “at minimum.”
Glazer said he’s in constant talks about the property, but he would only classify interest as serious “when they sign a lease.”
“I think when I do get somebody on the line, they might make that (exit) a condition of coming in,” he said.
The largest space in the shopping center, which is between the north and south lanes of Murdoch Avenue below the Traffic Circle in Parkersburg, has been vacant since Big Bear closed in 2004.
Glazer said he’s been pushing for improvements to the traffic pattern at the center for decades and Salter has been advocating for the exit in recent years.
The main exit from the shopping center sends motorists to Ohio Avenue, where their only option is to turn right and head south to Garfield Avenue or loop around the Traffic Circle to go north on Murdoch Avenue.
Drivers wanting to head north toward Vienna often leave the center and drive through the adjacent neighborhood until they reach a street where they can turn left onto Murdoch.
“The majority of the traffic going out of the shopping center heading up north is going through Birch Street,” Glazer said. “If traffic could get out of the center and go north, that would certainly take the pressure off that neighborhood.”
The exit being proposed would involve widening the current entrance from Ohio Avenue between Bob Evans and Hornor and Harrison. In 2012, Parkersburg City Council set aside $125,000 for a traffic signal to be installed there, and the money remains available.
“It’s in a contingency account,” Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said. “That doesn’t just help the shopping center, that helps the city” by alleviating traffic in the residential area.
But the project has been in limbo since, due in part to an apparent misunderstanding between Salter and the West Virginia Division of Highways.
According to correspondence provided by the division, it was waiting for an updated traffic impact study from the developer before giving permission to move forward.
Salter said recently he was under the impression that the necessary documents had been submitted, in the form of a design for the improvement and data from a traffic study of the area when Emerson Avenue was extended through the Traffic Circle in 2005.
“Apparently the report I had given them that was previously submitted to the Division of Highways three administrations ago was rejected for the impracticality of the design,” he said.
Now, Salter said his client is considering going forward with a new traffic study focusing on a simplified approach.
One thing that would make the new exit work better is for Murdoch to be expanded to three lanes in that area, Salter said. The road is three lanes wide as it passes Kentucky Fried Chicken, then is reduced to two lanes before expanding once again.
Rusty Roten, District 3 engineer with the Division of Highways, said that has been considered, and the study for the shopping center exit could provide more leverage to make it happen.
“Everybody agrees it’s something that ought to be done,” he said.