When David Lorenze was growing up in Morgantown, there were roughly a dozen restaurants to choose from in the whole town.
“Now, you have a dozen restaurants within a half-mile radius,” said Lorenze, principal at Black Diamond Realty. “The same holds true for retail.”
Growing almost as fast as shopping centers is the excitement as residents speculate on what new business may be opening soon.
Eldon Callen, vice president of Governmental Affairs, Community/Economic Development at the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce, said he has recently celebrated a number of grand openings, including Fusion Japanese Steakhouse, which has locations in Parkersburg and Wheeling, plus, Washington and Grove City, Pa.; and WV Box and Ship in Sabraton.
“There’s a whole new strip mall up there across from Suncrest Towne Centre that has MVB Bank, a new Starbucks and Penn Station East Coast Subs,” Callen said. “There are a number of things coming.”
Callen is always hesitant to say that a business is coming for sure.
“It’s up to the companies to release their plans,” Callen said. “They may just have shown an interest or given a letter of intent. Amazon was looking here and ended up going to Berkeley County. That’s why I’m hesitant to give credence to rumors. Some are true, and some are not.”
Callen did confirm that Dave & Buster’s, a nationwide chain of restaurant-arcades, looked at WestRidge Business and Retail Park at the new Interstate 79 Exit 153. As far as Callen knows, the company hasn’t done more than look. Calls to Dave & Buster’s corporate office were not returned.
The North Central West Virginia Economic Outlook 2017-2021, compiled by the West Virginia University Bureau of Business and Economic Research, says the build-out of major developments, such as University Town Centre, Suncrest Towne Centre and Fort Pierpont off Interstate 68 Exit 7 will drive growth in new retail, dining, lodging and entertainment businesses.
“To put it in perspective, in 2013, at University Town Centre, the road ended at Walmart on the east side and at Ashley Furniture next to Dick’s Sporting on the west side. Now it’s developed almost all the way down to the new interchange on the other side,” Callen said.
“That whole area is possible, really, because of the interchange (Interstate 79 Exit 153). That is the first interchange in the country that was a collaboration and cooperation between the state and county government. It was funded half by county and half by the federal government and designed by the local, state and federal people. That shows the importance of infrastructure.”
In that area, one of the newest developments under construction is WestRidge, a 1,000-acre mixed-use development that will have five neighborhoods, two medical office buildings, a shopping center and a corporate office park.
Holly Childs, WestRidge’s director of business development and external relations, said despite road and utility construction just getting underway, there is substantial pre-leasing interest in the development.
“There are currently 149 acres under construction, 90 of which have letters of interest, signed purchase agreements or have already been sold,” Childs said. “WestRidge is currently negotiating with many new and exciting retail offerings for the market, while also planning close to 100 acres of a Class A Business Park that is currently being marketed on a national level to attract and recruit businesses to Morgantown.”
That area on Morgantown’s north side is not the only development that’s growing.
Lorenze said Black Diamond Realty expects to announce 14-15 deals it has closed this quarter in October.
“Quarter 3 has been Black Diamond Realty’s strongest quarter in its short four-year history,” Lorenze said.
Backdoor Bargains, which sells merchandise at up to a 70 percent markdown, opened this summer in the former Fastenal store in Sabraton. In June, BDR announced a developer will build an 8,300-square-foot Family Dollar Store on 1.14 acres near Mountainview Elementary on Green Bag Road.
“A lot of announcements will happen in the coming months,” Lorenze said.
One might be about a restaurant on the upper level of the new Par Mar Retail Store/Restaurant on Oakland Street near WVU’s Evansdale Campus.
Callen said when a business is looking to locate in a community it evaluates the local schools and what entertainment and other things there are for workers and their families to do.
“Jobs are only part of the equation attracting folks to Morgantown,” Lorenze agreed. “Monongalia County is flush with amenities that support a strong quality of life. From beautiful public parks to quality schools to world-class sports’ facilities, Morgantown is blessed with a well-rounded offering of amenities. And, the beautiful thing is, the momentum appears to only be increasing.”