Mayor Newell discusses downtown

PARKERSBURG – Mayor Bob Newell talked parking, traffic, the farmers market and baseball Tuesday with downtown business representatives.

About 30 people attended the Downtown Parkersburg Business Meeting at the newly renovated Point Park Marketplace where Newell went over a variety of initiatives the city has pursued or is pursuing to make the downtown area more attractive to businesses and their patrons.

“What we’re trying to do is connect downtown,” the mayor said. “Downtown is not just Market Street, (but) that’s what we seem to focus on.”

The mayor sees the marketplace, the new home of the Downtown Farmers’ Market, as a potentially big draw. The facility at Second and Ann streets near the entrance to Point Park will be open Thursday through Saturday year-round starting in May, with some permanent indoor tenants in addition to the vendors who set up at the previous location at Bicentennial Park.

“We feel very confident that this is going to be a destination place downtown,” Newell said.

Like the market, Newell said he hopes a prospective baseball stadium, which would serve as the home field for a minor league team as well as a venue for concerts and other activities, gets people to check out other downtown offerings. The Sixth Street area of downtown has become a favorite spot for the project, which is in the second phase of a feasibility study.

“We’ll know this year whether it’s a go or not,” Newell said.

Charles Posey attended the meeting to hear more about the baseball stadium because he owns a facility on Depot Street that he’d like to build up for his business, Dutch Ridge Millworks.

Newell said during the meeting the goal is not to displace or demolish any viable buildings.

“I think the mayor’s open to ideas,” Posey said after the meeting.

The final location, Newell said, will be up to whoever’s paying for the stadium.

The mayor touched on traffic issues, including plans to slow traffic on Seventh Street between Green and Market streets by adding landscaping or other barriers, which would also provide some short-term parking options.

“It really is a two-lane freeway,” Newell said of the street. “It’ll be a better look for one thing, but it’ll also slow traffic.”

The mayor said the city can provide services to help businesses, including a program in which building owners can receive matching funds up to $10,000 per address to improve their facades. With three addresses on Market Street, West Virginia University at Parkersburg received $30,000 toward its Downtown Center through the program, but Newell said the expense does not have to be that great.

“If they have 500 bucks, we’ll give them 500 bucks. If they have a thousand, we’ll give them a thousand,” he said.

The mayor also asked downtown businesses to help out the city. He said he often gets complaints from business owners about trash or weeds on downtown sidewalks, when those sidewalks belong to the property owners and are not the city’s responsibility.

“If you have a business and want to make money, I suggest you take care of the sidewalk in front of your business and pick up the trash,” he said.

Steve Keiser, vice president and chief operating officer of Christy and Associates, provided an update on the project to renovate the long-vacant Uptowner Inn on Eighth Street into an extended-stay hotel. A great deal of architectural work has been done, but the developers are still working on finding a franchise partner for the venture.