Parkersburg moves toward state port deal

PARKERSBURG – Mayor Bob Newell said city officials are working with the state Port Authority to potentially create a permanent river port in Parkersburg.

Newell spoke about the project and work on a permanent downtown marketplace during Monday’s Parkersburg Rotary Club meeting.

Officials are interested in turning the Depot Street property, which houses the state’s District 3 Department of Transportation Headquarters. Newell said the property is about 15 acres, 12 of which are along the Little Kanawha River and includes several buildings for storage and shipping.

Newell said the property is about 300 yards from the Ohio River, is within sight of a CSX railyard and is only blocks from Corridor D and Interstate 77.

The city has been working with the West Virginia Department of Transportation’s Public Port Authority on the project and plans to have meetings with state officials again this week.

“They want Parkersburg to be a public port,” Newell said Monday. “The only reason it has not yet been voted on is because we are still in the process of submitting our application.”

Newell said he believes establishing a port in Parkersburg would bring jobs and commerce to the city.

“There are about 40 entities in Wood and Jackson counties that export goods,” Newell said. “Now, while not all of those would have need of a port, there is a lot of obvious need for it.”

Newell said Parkersburg’s location as well as easy access to truck, train and river routes makes it a prime location.

Newell said the port location is still being used by the Department of Transportation, which has plans to move its operation to south Parkersburg.

Another city project also has garnered state attention. Newell said officials with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture are showing interest in creating a permanent marketplace at 113 Ann St. just inside of the flood wall at Point Park.

The city gained the building through a land swap deal earlier this year and is in the process of renovating the structure to provide a permanent home for the city’s Downtown Farmers’ Market.

Newell said the project has generated interest from Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick who is interested in making the Parkersburg market an agricultural hub for the state.

“I don’t want you to look at this as a pet project of the city,” Newell said. “It is so much more than that.”

Newell said the market could figure into the state’s agrotourism plans to encourage more home-grown and West Virginia-grown produce. Newell said officials already have more than a dozen businesses that have expressed interest in establishing permanent shops within the market and believe more will come forward as renovations proceed on the building.

“We feel very certain we will have lots of interest,” he said.

City officials anticipate the Winter Farmers’ Market will be held at the Ann Street building, and next spring it will become the permanent location for the Downtown Farmers’ Marketplace.