PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — West Virginia University at Parkersburg is looking to sell its Downtown Center on Market Street.
A public notice is going out today announcing the university is looking for offers on the property in the old W.T. Grant building at 705-707 Market St.
West Virginia University President Fletcher Lamkin said the sale of the property was a result of the site not generating the program content and student interest to sustain the facility.
The building, which was built in 1931, was donated to WVU-P in 2008 by The Erickson Foundation. The building underwent renovations and housed the school’s Culinary Academy for a year and a half. The program has been at the WVU-P Downtown Center since January 2013.
Earlier this year, the school’s Board of Governors approved the suspension of the culinary program due to low enrollments and the costs to operate the program and the Downtown Center.
”It is an expensive facility that has not created the opportunities for us we wanted,” Lamkin said. ”We explored many options and decided selling it would be best.”
It costs around $100,000 a year to operate the facility, he said.
WVU-P has had budget cuts from the state and increases in tuition to meet the needs of the school. WVU-P officials are continuing to look at programs to determine where cuts might have to be made.
”As we are working to reduce expenditures, this facility stands out as one we can’t really afford,” Lamkin said.
College officials said they have configurations on how a sale of the property could work out, but there is not a set price WVU-P is asking for the center.
”I can’t give an amount,” Lamkin said.
The college cannot accept offers on the property until the public notice has been out for two weeks, he said.
Senta Goudy, executive director of the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Foundation and vice president for institutional advancement, is overseeing interest in regard to the sale of the building.
The building has a new roof, a new elevator, a new air system and includes a new kitchen and additional classroom space that originally handled the Culinary Arts program, Lamkin said. The exterior of the building was refurbished.
Parkersburg Mayor Jimmy Colombo said it was sad the college could not make a go of it at that location, but the work that has been done to the site may make it more enticing to prospective buyers.
”I think it is much easier to market a building with a new facade,” he said.
The mayor said locations in the downtown area are filling up with businesses. One he pointed to was the Union Trust Building across the street, which is almost filled up.
”It is an important site and it can be marketed,” Colombo said of WVU-P’s Downtown Center. ”I think there are a number of people who would like to go in there.”
Wendy Shriver, the executive director of Downtown PKB, said hopefully a potential buyer can come in and make an effective use of the space and bring something to the downtown to help revitalize the area.
Downtown PKB has been using some of the vacant storefronts in the building as part of its Vacant Storefront Program. The group has set up displays in vacant storefronts to create a use for those spaces and to get people to notice them in hopes they would invest and create businesses in the downtown area.
”It could be a blank canvas for potential investment,” Shriver said. ”It could really be exciting for downtown if the right investor comes in and develops it.”