The good folks at The Parkersburg News and Sentinel have graciously allowed me to submit a few articles regarding my observations on the current status of downtown Parkersburg.
While there are many worthy topics to consider, maybe we should first ask a somewhat obvious question. Why bother? Is it worthwhile to devote resources to creating a successful downtown?
I must confess I'm a fan of downtown Parkersburg and am optimistic about its future. It is certainly my opinion we need a vibrant downtown.
Early on, downtown Parkersburg was the birthplace of our community's personality and character. If you grew up here (and you're over the age of 50,) you remember what downtown was like. If you're not old or from here, just visit Paul Borelli at Artcraft Studio and peruse his remarkable, historic photo collection and you'll quickly get a sense of the way downtown was.
It was a huge part of everyone's life, and it was not just the heart of the community. It was the DNA of our culture.
Cultural DNA is the collective traits and qualities that distinguish who we are. It's our make-up, our personality, our soul. Our community is our mutual heritage. And, by the way, it's more than just retail shopping. It's even more than government services, lawyers' offices, banks, and a big hospital. Frankly, it's a lot more than meets the eye.
There are local restaurants, pubs, churches, civic clubs, museums, culture arts venues, public parks, and a dozen other community services. Additionally, many of our citizens live downtown in the many apartments, lofts, and condos. As a matter of fact, did you know that there is currently a shortage of downtown housing? That's been the case for several years and will continue into the foreseeable future. More and more people are interested in a small, urban lifestyle and that trend appears to be growing.
Studies show that both Generation X and Generation Y are drawn to downtown living, often in rental apartments with easy access to walkable neighborhoods and public transportation. This is a game changer for our community. And if many of us want to live near our grandchildren, we'd better start rethinking how we view the coming needs and desires of our young adult children.
If examining the life-choices of the next generation is not enough to motivate civic leaders and developers to see the need for creating a vibrant downtown, then I don't know what is. Once our children outgrow hanging at the mall, and return from collage, they may desire a "small-city," "urban-feeling" community lifestyle. If we built that kind of downtown maybe they would move out of our basements.
If you're like me, you probably have your own opinions of downtown Parkersburg and why it is the way it is. For the next few weeks I hope to engage the newspaper's readers in a conversation about the needs, problems, solutions, realities and vision for downtown Parkersburg. I'd love to hear your thoughts and I hope you listen to mine.
Cecil Childress is General Manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel and Chairman of Downtown PKB.