Downtown Campus Construction Begin....
by Jeff Fox
The face of Market Street is slowly changing. The corner of 7th and Market, to be exact, has been the recent epicenter of development in downtown Parkersburg. Along with the multi-million dollar Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield office building and the locally owned Mango Latin Bistro, a new neighbor will soon be on the block.
Work is currently underway on the WVU Parkersburg downtown campus. The project calls for the renovation of the Market Street building, which formerly housed the Parkersburg Beauty College, American Automobile Association, and the W.T. Grant department store.
The original building was constructed in 1916, and has gone through several remodels over the years as tenants have come and gone. The structure provides a full basement, first floor and a second floor (in the part of the building adjacent to Market St.), which will all be remodeled for the new downtown campus. When completed, “The renovation will provide 33,000 square feet of usable space,” WVU Parkersburg Facilities and Grounds Director Dave White said. Even though the building is nearly 100 years old, it rests upon a solid cut stone foundation, and utilizes structural steel and true 3 X 12 wooden joists on 16-inch centers for the floors. Truly proving that “they just don’t build’em like they used to.”
One of the more noticeable parts of the project is currently underway as workers from Phoenix Associates Construction are busy remodeling the building facade. The new facade will feature modern steel and glass windows and doors, along with a granite and stucco-like wall finish. The second story will remain a traditional brick exterior and receive new windows.
But behind the scenes work is also ongoing, as contractors are performing demolition of old interior walls and ceilings, the electrical system and plumbing. Pro 1 Electric has begun the process of removing the outdated electrical system and installing a new electrical service along with six distribution panels to provide power throughout the building. Wolf Creek Construction will be installing an elevator, which is necessary for the building to gain compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Currently out for bid are contracts, which will provide for a new fire alarm system, roof, sprinkler system and heating and air conditioning units. These parts of the project are to be completed around July 1, 2011.
One nice by-product of the renovation is its sustainability factor. By basically recycling a solid, existing downtown structure, it will spare area landfills the burden of the waste. It also reduces the amount of new building materials, which will need to be utilized for construction.
The project also makes good financial sense, explained White. “Compared to the new Applied Technology Center,” which will begin construction on the main campus, later this spring, “The renovations for the downtown campus will allow the college to save roughly $60 per square foot of building space,” White said. That will add up to a savings of nearly $2 million dollars versus building a brand new building.
Of course any trip to downtown Parkersburg immediately brings up thoughts about parking. While the downtown campus does not have a parking lot, it should be noted that the City of Parkersburg parking garage is located approximately the same distance as a hike from the west parking lot on the main campus. Numerous parking options will be available after normal business hours in downtown Parkersburg, which should help alleviate parking concerns. Of course, some potential students may already be working in the downtown area, also helping to ease any parking issues. Ironically in the end, students attending classes at the downtown campus may view the $20 per semester main campus parking fee as a bargain!