West Virginia University is expanding its presence in Charleston, West Virginia, leasing two floors in Equities House, a central downtown office building that will become home to several university offices.
President Gordon Gee lauded the university's move secure its presence in the state's capital city.
“Charleston is the business and cultural heart of West Virginia,” Gee said.
“While West Virginia University has always been in the Charleston region in some capacity, this new venture provides a consolidated and multi-faceted presence that will allow the university to serve its constituents better and create a base of operations that will greatly benefit the region and the state.”
The University’s College of Law, its WVU Extension Service, and the John Chambers College of Business and Economics will occupy the 19,000 square foot space, Gee said.
Gregory Bowman, the William J. Maier Jr. dean of the College of Law, says he sees a lot of potential for an expanded WVU location in Charleston.
“For years, our alumni in the Charleston area have asked us about having a more tangible presence in the region,” Bowman said.
“With this new opportunity, WVU Law will be able to offer continuing legal education classes and certificate courses. We also can be a resource and a hub for law students working at the West Virginia State Capitol and in the area’s law firms and legal aid organizations.”
Bowman said one plan calls for the colleges of law and business and economics to collaborate on an incubator for startups.
“With our combined resources in one place, we can help new businesses get off the ground,” he said.
“Starting a business is hard, and we want to help. Incubator space is a good fit with West Virginia Forward and other initiatives aimed at driving economic development in our state.”
WVU’s entrepreneurship and innovation initiatives will benefit from a unified presence in Charleston, says Javier Reyes, vice president for Startup West Virginia and Milan Puskar Dean of the John Chambers College of Business and Economics.
“This is an important step that supports our mission to build a robust entrepreneurship and innovation infrastructure within our University and across the State,” Reyes said.
“Strategically offering the right resources in the right places to empower entrepreneurs and business leaders to grow and succeed in West Virginia is critical to our success in transforming the business landscape of our State.”
Reyes said WVU looks to ignite innovation and business development on a statewide level, adding resources in Charleston will enhance those efforts and allow WVU to expand key partnerships to convert West Virginia into a start-up state.
“The Encova Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Vantage Ventures—WVU’s new business incubator and accelerator program designed to fuel start-ups—will give the college the ability to focus on outreach efforts in the southern part of the state, while allowing us to continue to grow win-win partnerships with the University of Charleston and Marshall University,” he said.
“It takes collaboration to make change, and these efforts will help us take the necessary steps to move West Virginia forward into an innovation economy.”
WVU Extension Service also will join the colleges as a resident in the new facility. The Kanawha County WVU Extension Office, Family Nutrition Program, SNAP-Ed, After School Network and other staff will move from their current location in Kanawha City.
Sue Day-Perroots, interim dean and director of the WVU Extension Service, said Kanawha Valley programs are being welcomed into the facility.
“WVU Extension Service remains an integral part of the Greater Kanawha Valley, providing much-needed outreach and education to encourage health, prosperity, and education in our state,” she said.
“Our faculty, staff, and experts will continue to provide valuable 4-H and other youth programming, health and nutrition education, and expertise on topics that improve lives.
"Community partners and master gardeners are also invited to visit and meet in the new space. We’re looking forward to joining our colleagues from the College of Law and Chambers College to move West Virginia forward.”
Built in 1930, Equities House is located at the base of the South Side Bridge on the corner of Dickinson and Virginia streets. In addition to office space, the university will have access to event facilities within the building and parking in an adjacent city garage accessible by a sky bridge.
The new suite, which will include individual offices, classrooms, and conference rooms, is expected to open fully by January 2020. According to university officials, the move-in process includes buying new furniture and conducting renovations.
The total cost is estimated to be $750,000, not including the five-year lease. Funding is coming from private support and a reallocation of WVU resources currently used in Charleston.