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WVU wants to buy $14 million worth of Sunnyside area

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University plans to spend more than $14.5 million to buy a large portion of the Sunnyside neighborhood in Morgantown -- the area's hot spot for riots and fires.

University officials have agreed to buy nearly 40 parcels of land near the downtown campus -- with more than half of the property located on Grant and University avenues, according to documents submitted to the state Legislature's Joint Committee on Government and Finance by the WVU Board of Governors.

Other parcels purchased include land along Jones Avenue, Quay Street and Houston Avenue, among others.

The WVU Board of Governors will meet today<co tues> to discuss approval of the project.

WVU decided to buy the land after being approached by Paradigm Development Group, and wants the housing facilities to be available for occupancy by Fall 2014, according to the report.

"WVU, after analysis and consideration, believes that the Property is uniquely positioned to meet critical current and future needs of WVU. WVU recognizes that, to support its 2020 Plan, safe and affordable student housing and related amenities will be critical for success of its educational and academic mission and that property for such housing and related amenities located within close distance to WVU's downtown campus will be in high demand and potentially unavailable," the report states.

Earlier this year, WVU announced plans to buy land for $9.5 million adjacent to Sunnyside.

In the past five years, more than $100 million has been invested in the struggling Sunnyside area, according to a report released earlier this year by the Sunnyside Up Campus Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation.

New developments, student housing halls and parking lots have replaced "dilapidated structures and underused property" in the neighborhood and have contributed to increased property tax collections and B&O tax revenue, according to the Sunnyside Up report.

Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla is a member of the Sunnyside Up committee and said WVU's investment is a step in the right direction following the city's recent battle with post-game street riots and couch and trash bin fires.

"A project like this will hopefully have some type of domino effect. I think the project will attract other developments to the area, which is very blighted," Manilla said. "It's going to be very beneficial to the city of Morgantown and WVU, and will also clean up the area. At this point, all I can say is it's going to be a win for everyone."

WVU officials would not comment on the details of the project. The report says the sale should be finalized by Thursday.

"We really don't have anything to say at this time. But when we do, we can hopefully comment later this week," said WVU spokeswoman Becky Lofstead.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.

 


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