Updated: 8/14/2013 7:10 P.M.
Parkersburg City Council has transferred to its urban renewal authority the long-vacant Uptowner Inn property on Seventh Street.
That allows the authority to sell the property to developers who want to renovate the complex for a new hotel.
"They've purchased property around that building, and the building," said Mayor Bob Newell Wednesday. "They've taken a lot of huge steps to getting this done. So we're certainly optimistic it's going to be done."
Mayor Newell says the Yptowner project is one of the first to result from the completion of Corridor D in the past decade.
And a developer told city council's public works committee Tuesday night about plans to build a concert park on land the city owns across from the city's skate park.
It would be used for musical shows and other entertainment events.
Norm Payne is seeking to lease that land from the city.
Payne told council sponsors are being sought for the project, which would be built with private funding.
“Anything that increases traffic into the downtown adds to the momentum game,” says Cecil Childress, general manager of the Blennerhassett Hotel.
The Uptowner Inn, on the corner of Seventh and Green streets, is the site of the original Parkersburg High School. The building later became Washington Junior High and was replaced by the Uptowner in 1963. The hotel closed its doors in 1987.
The building formerly boasted about 100 rooms, but the new structure will house about 70 slightly larger rooms and include kitchenettes for extended stays.
“We hope to get some people from perhaps the federal government is a good candidate, Blue Cross is here, they're a good candidate. There are also four funeral homes in downtown Parkersburg that are good customers on weekends,” says Steve Keiser, vice president and chief operating officer of Christy & Associates, a business development company working with the city. “So a lot of good possibilities for this hotel.”
Keiser says officials plan to pick a franchise within the next two months and then construction will get underway. They hope to open the new Uptowner by next summer. He expects the company to invest about $4 million on the project.
After standing vacant for 25 years, the Uptowner is finally getting a makeover.
“The whole time I've been mayor I've talked to Larry Morehead (current building owner) several times,” says Mayor Bob Newell. “He's had several people that were interested in the building, but for one reason or another just either couldn't come up with the funding or just couldn't make it work for what they wanted to do. He's continued to seek out the right people for this type of a project and in fact, found the right people.”
Catering to those who need it with long-term lodging.
“What we'd like to do, there's a segment of the market that we don't think is being addressed in Parkersburg and that's extended stay. The Uptowner is a perfect property for that,” Keiser says. “We should have the ability to accommodate guests for longer periods of time.”
Aside from the mall, downtown Parkersburg has grown awfully quiet -- something the revitalization strives to change.
“One of the challenges that this area has had, it's had a lot going on but it's been difficult to have critical mass in one location,” Childress says.
Through the years, many people voiced concern over the Uptowner and what if nobody ever goes there.
“What are we going to do with that big abandoned building,” Newell recalls them saying. “But no, this is an extremely exciting project.”
Downtown can only benefit from the new Uptowner Inn.
“It's one more asset that we have in downtown that's going to benefit everyone involved,” Childress says.