Downtown parking plan delayed

PARKERSBURG – Construction of a Juliana Street parking lot for West Virginia University at Parkersburg’s downtown campus has been delayed and might not begin until this fall.

A property at Seventh and Juliana streets was given to WVU-Parkersburg in April by the Erickson Foundation. The college and the city would like to see the grass lot turned into a parking lot, which would provide hourly parking spaces.

Officials have said the lot would be used primarily by students at WVU-Parkersburg downtown campus on Market Street, but it would provide temporary parking for any visitors to downtown. Right now people must either find street parking or pay for monthly parking spaces.

Both City Council and the WVU-Parkersburg Board of Governors have approved the agreement, but officials say the West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education, also known as the CTC, met last week but did not vote on the agreement.

Jamie Six, president of the WVU-Parkersburg Board of Governors, said the council’s next meeting isn’t until late August.

“Any type of contract we enter into has to be approved by the CTC,” he said. “We are working with them to see if we can get this approved earlier than August, maybe get them to call a special meeting.”

Six said WVU-Parkersburg President Marie Foster Gnage has been tasked with speaking to council officials.

“President Gnage will work toward that on behalf of the school,” Six said.

Gnage was unavailable for comment Thursday as she is in Denmark as a guest speaker at a convention.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said if the agreement isn’t approved until August, it will be September before work begins.

“It will take us a while to go through the bidding process,” he said. “It will still get done, we just won’t have use of it as early as we’d like.”

Newell said until the state signs off on the agreement, the city has no legal right to that property.

“We can’t put out bids. We can’t put a legal ad in the paper on a piece of property we don’t own. We can’t even mow it,” he said. “We were hoping by now we would already have had control of that property. My plan was to already have it done. It should have been opened by now.”

Six said he and the board of governors believe the city’s development of the property for parking is a win-win for both entities.

“I think it’s great for the community as a whole,” he said. “The city has the ability to develop the parking much better than we do. Part of the agreement is to make sure we have the parking available for the students at the downtown campus, but it will be open to everyone.”

Six also reiterated the city was not responsible for the delay.

“The city has done all of their part,” he said. “The holdup is definitely on our end.”

Newell said the situation is frustrating, as the city has been looking to develop that piece of property for nearly two years.

“It’s disappointing because there is no reason for it to take this long,” he said. “We’ll start and finish it in the fall, it will just be an ugly piece of property until then.”