PARKERSBURG - Some local officials insist interest continues to grow in the downtown district. They credit the efforts of local government, and expect things to continue to improve.
"I have got/had a lot of interest in downtown recently," said Butch "Holmes" Shaver, a long time local real estate agent. "People are starting to feel there is real opportunity down there again."
Shaver credits recent work by local government to improve the downtown, make it more attractive for businesses and residents.
The new Highmark West Virginia headquarters and the former headquarters are two examples of the downtown district. Officials worked with the company to construct a new headquarters and keep the Highmark and its hundreds of employees downtown. Officials have been working to provide incentives for companies and developers to renovate buildings and repopulate the downtown district. (Photo by Jody Murphy)
Several new businesses have opened downtown. WVU-P downtown campus is slated to open next year.
Most recently, Parkersburg City Council approved a 100 percent tax credit on B&O tax for five years on any commercial or industrial building that is 75 percent vacant and has been vacant for at least two years.
Earlier this year Mayor Bob Newell said city officials have been contacted, and there is "significant" interest in three major buildings: the old Union Trust building, the Uptowner and the former Parkersburg Medical Associates building on Market Street.
The ordinance applies citywide, not just downtown.
"People are reacting to that a little bit," Shaver said.
The downtown is also getting help in the form of the city's ON TRAC program which focuses on revitalizing downtown areas in communities. The committee, part of the Downtown Taskforce, has been involved in several ways to improve and grow the downtown.
"We are seeing a renewed interest," said Cecil Childress, manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel, a member of the ON TRAC committee.
Shaver said officials need to continue to focus on downtown.
"There is tremendous potential down there," he said. "Once it starts it can steamroll."
Childress said there is interest in developing additional, quality downtown living. He said not a week goes by he doesn't talk to someone about living downtown.
Childress said as housing becomes available in the area retail and restaurants will continue to spring up.
"They look for an opportunity to park themselves between where somebody works and where somebody lives. ... That's the missing piece."
Most recently, city council, spurred by the ON TRAC approved a measure to revamp downtown handicapped parking spaces to reduce congestion and free up space for use for shoppers and visitors.