Living in Morgantown
Fusing college-town charm with urban appeal—if Morgantown was ever a secret to the outside world, it isn’t now.
(page 1 of 4)
Morgantown is making national headlines as one of the few places in the country with a thriving economy. In recent years, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Kiplinger’s, MSNBC, Southern Living—to name a few—showcased West Virginia’s fastest growing city. And what folks discovered is that Morgantown is much more than a quintessential college town. It’s a place where the quality of life is high, the arts and culture flourish, and the economy is strong. “What’s not to like about a small city that devotes an entire downtown event to eating chocolate?” says Brian Bell, a Morgantown resident who relocated two years ago with his family from New York. “Morgantown is an exception rather than a rule when it comes to living in a small city—it provides a sense of place.” And that sense of place is sweet indeed, from porch parties in the historical neighborhood of South Park to a farmers market overflowing with local produce, it is no wonder that the town repeatedly is listed as one the best places to live in the nation.
HISTORY AND GROWTH
Morgantown’s roots date back to the late 18th century when Welsh-born settler Zackquill Morgan built a homestead around the area known today as University Avenue and Fayette Street. After the Revolutionary War, the city’s first real estate planners began dividing the new town into lots and streets and eventually christened the community “Morgan’s Town.” Through the years, the city continued to expand with growth in the local glass industry as well as the discovery of the region’s coal, gas, and oil resources. More recently, West Virginia University has been a driving economic force with enrollment expansions and building projects. These initiatives have delivered new jobs and enrichment opportunities that complement the town’s vibrant health care industry, pharmaceutical businesses, and cutting-edge technology sector.
Today, Morgantown is a community of nearly 30,000 that doubles in size when students return to the university in the fall. And during football season, thousands of additional faithful fans fill up the town. This means good business for the hotel industry. Visitors have a number of lodging options throughout the area. Morgantown’s classic hotel, the Hotel Morgan, is the most convenient hotel to downtown. The 19th century property, which features a restaurant and rooftop bar plus an ornate wood-paneled lobby, packs vintage flair into a boutique hotel that’s a favorite for history buffs and downtown visitors. The Waterfront Place Hotel and The Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa at Cheat Lake are also popular options. Another boutique hotel is the Euro-Suites Hotel, located adjacent to the Mylan Pharmaceuticals Complex, football fans can easily walk to the stadium. There are also several national chains that provide a range of price points and amenities.
LET'S GO MOUNTAINEERS
West Virginians bleed gold and blue. When the Mountaineer Marching Band takes the field and plays “Hail, West Virginia,” hearts beat faster. And when they perform John Denver’s “Country Roads,” West Virginia University’s theme song that has been performed at every home pre-game show since 1972, eyes water. Mountaineer pride is truly something to behold.
And for good reason. WVU is the state’s largest university with nearly 30,000 students in over 185 degree programs. A member of the Big East Conference, WVU is a public land-grant institution founded 1867. Today, it is a leading teaching and research institute that continues to be on the forefront of innovation.
If you visit in the fall, Milan Puskar Stadium is easy to find—just follow the sea of gold and blue. You also can’t miss the Coliseum, the 14,000-seat multi-purpose arena where winter sports take center stage. It is the gargantuan concrete edifice that you see peaking out of the trees when you approach Morgantown by I-79. The Creative Arts Center, where stars like Chris Sarandon and David Selby cut their teeth, houses several theaters and offers an incredible schedule of shows. If you haven’t taken a campus tour lately, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. From the Student Recreation Center at the Evansdale Campus, replete with a 50-foot climbing wall, to the state-of-the-art Downtown Library Complex to the new architecturally stunning Life Sciences Building, the campus has never looked better. And in 2011, The Art Museum of West Virginia University is slated to open adjacent to the former Erickson Alumni Center.
Although historic Woodburn Hall is one of the most recognizable landmarks of the university, the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system is probably a close second. Many a student has been shuttled back and forth from the downtown campus to the Evansdale campus since it was built in the early 1970s. And this fall, WVU is introducing another innovative transportation idea—an hourly rental car program, called WE Car. Students, who live on campus, and academic departments seeking to cut back on travel expenses, may access a hybrid rental car on a short-term basis. The rental charge is $9 per hour, which includes insurance coverage and fuel. Drivers may rent a car for a maximum of 15 hours per day. Two Toyota Prius hybrids will be parked beside the Mountainlair and two more at the Evansdale Residential Complex.
“These hybrid-powered cars are great for people who do not or cannot bring a car to campus, and there’s an environmentally friendly bonus to them,” said Hugh Kierig, director of transportation and parking. “WE Car is part of our WE GO! campaign for alternative transportation and will help reduce the parking demand on WVU campuses.”
The university’s new president, Jim Clements, ushers in a new era this fall as the school’s 23rd president—a president whose academic experience sits in technology—a true advantage in helping him to lead the university’s 21st-century land grant mission. “Technology now guides, supports or connects everything we do at the university,” says Chris Martin, vice president of university relations. “And Jim Clements is our first president whose academic discipline is firmly rooted in that field. The meshing of his strong leadership and his tech savvy is a perfect fit to lead the university into this new century and to address its many new challenges and opportunities.”
President Clements and his wife, Beth, and four children are enjoying their new town. “I love West Virginia,” Clements says. “Everyone has been so nice and wonderful. Some of the kindest people in the world are here...and being at WVU is my dream job. It all feels right. Earlier this summer, I was away from Morgantown for several days, and as I was driving back into town I got this great feeling that I was home.”