Local leaders should dream big

A recent Parkersburg News and Sentinel story laid the groundwork of how community leaders were planning to revitalize the Park Shopping Center. This story is not exciting or shocking or any of the other things that seems to grab folk’s attention nowadays.

But while it lacks intriguing glamour, it is important. Why? Because it shows a starting point that city leaders should use more often in their vision. These visions are usually centered on “economic development.”

But the twist here is that the community leaders realized, if only momentarily, that revitalization of older commercial areas may be the best strategy for the sleepy Parkersburg economy. And the Park Shopping Center could be a very focal starting point for nurturing fresh ideas.

Sure there are continual conversations about developing the outlying areas around Parkersburg’s city limits and bypasses. But why build something new when you can fix and recycle something existing? Expanding city limits only means stretching Parkersburg’s maintenance resources even thinner. Our town already has fewer residents paying to keep more infrastructures safe and sound.

If one uses a little imagination, envision this easy to access, centralized location as a hub for new entertainment ideas in our community. Imagine the former Big Bear building becoming the Parkersburg Civic Center, a quaint arena for a few thousand fans. The structure already has a fairly high roof in the center of the building but it could be heightened and strengthened if necessary to accommodate stage rigging and lighting. Each side of the building could be remodeled into wings which could be used for meetings and expositions. The shopping center already boasts ample parking and adjacent areas could be used for parking if necessary.

But don’t stop imagining there. The flood wall protected area behind the old Big Bear building along Keever Street is home to ample ground waiting to be developed. How about using this area for the often-proposed minor league baseball stadium rather than developing and having to care for a whole other area on the fringe of the city? This location also has a very necessary element, a critical mass of people living within a two mile radius and many ready to support new ideas!

Hopefully local leaders will dream big like a little leaguer aiming for the majors, rather than the usual softly hit idea that doesn’t even make it to first base.

Jeff Fox