West Virginia University is cleaning up Morgantown whether students like it or not

DollarsWest Virginia University was contacted by Paradigm Development Group with a proposal that was too good to pass up. A large chunk of real estate, just blocks from the downtown campus was the target of a massive renovation plan that will put nearly $70 million of University funding into play.

The project looks to create 297,000 square feet of student residence and nearly the same amount of commercial real estate in an area that at times looks much more like a condemned contamination zone that student housing. When complete, the development will include roughly 1,000 beds, nearly ten times the number of students living in the area now, and will also have upscale amenities such as a fitness facility, grocery store, manicured seating areas, and (thankfully) a police sub-station.

Most people would see this as a huge improvement to the area. The students who live between Grant Avenue and University Avenue see things differently. “We know each other. We all hang out together. We just walk in and out of each other’s houses,” said one resident. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

“The redevelopment plan looks very interesting, why couldn’t we start construction in May? We’re getting kicked out five months before our lease is up. I’m going to be out of here in May, I’m just getting a bad taste in my mouth the last five months.”

To the 120 students who reside there and to those visiting the block on weekends, it is a place of low rent, like minded neighbors and good spirited fun. To the rest of the area, city officials, local authorities and college officials, it’s more reminiscent of a Lord of the Flies college-aged social experiment gone awry. A costly uncontrollable area that continues to be an embarrassment for the University.

Just last month after a victory over University of Texas, Sunnyside was in chaos, yet again, as students lit bonfires, vandalized vehicles and bombarded riot police with rocks. Is it any wonder that the University has decided to start demolition immediately, even before the end of the school year.

WVU is offering incentives to those students affected, such as paid moving costs, rental reimbursement for increased rental rates and optional on campus rates to match their current rent.

Overall, the University purchased large sections of property on Grant, University and Jones Avenues as well as parcels on Quay, Overhill and Houston Drive. Various other parcels are included in the $14.5 million land grab deal.

Paradigm, WVU and the city of Morgantown are all winners with this deal. Morgantown generates tax revenue from the sales of the property, even though University land purchases typically are exempt from taxes, Paradigm makes a huge profit on acquiring real estate that is much more valuable as a lot than individually and the university is able to start their 2020 development plan to make WVU’s livability as good as their academics.

Even with a few upset students now, most future students will enjoy the new convenience of having a grocery store, gym and beautified walk-able environment in 2014. Residents and home owners in the area will approve of a renovated downtown area, less vandalism and violence and a good chance of some property appreciation.