Morgantown and West Virginia University Partner for Neighborhood Collaboration

Article excerpt

In a remarkable partnership, the City of Morgantown, W.Va., and West Virginia University (WVU) have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars since 2004 to stabilize and rejuvenate the Sunnyside neighborhood adjacent to the school's downtown campus. The Sunnyside Up Campus Neighborhoods Revitalization Corporation is the vehicle providing the residents of Sunnyside with a voice in decisions affecting their neighborhood.

Morgantown is a city nestled in the Appalachian foothills and rising up from the Monongahela River. The student population is 28,000, only about 10 percent of whom are able to live in on-campus housing. The resulting demand for rental housing in the city and the county represents an ongoing challenge for the local leaders.

The creation of Sunnyside Up was an acknowledgement that available student housing was woefully inadequate and in many cases substandard and unsafe. Through annual grants of $100,000 each from the city and the university, the nonprofit has brought together the various local stakeholders--students, property owners, merchants, university representatives and local elected officials--to set a vision and implement a strategy to create a more vital community.

"Sunnyside Up works because we have a great partner ship," says Executive Director Jim Hunt, who also is a council-member in Clarksburg, W.Va., and a past president of NLC. "The City of Morgantown, West Virginia University, property owners, landlords and students, all are working for a better neighborhood."

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Cleaner, Safer and More Walkable

The Sunnyside neighborhood covers about 135 acres and is densely packed with retail business and a mix of old and new duplex, fourplex, multistory apartments and converted single-family homes now holding a family of students.

Before the neighborhood partnership, parking was often impossible and a lack of street lighting and its associated concern for personal safety demanded attention. Many buildings are not code-compliant. Litter, including appliances, tires and household trash, clogged public rights of way and trash dumpsters were often set alight. A neighborhood that could be and should be a showplace for students, it has traditionally been viewed as an eyesore among the city's permanent residents. …