There was a time, not too long ago, when downtowns thrived in this region. In downtown Clarksburg, for instance, you could get just about anything you needed. Sears, Montgomery Ward and J.C. Penney were only a few of the retail stores — both local and national — where you could buy anything from a pair of shoes to a washer and dryer.
But then came the malls and shopping centers on the outskirts of town and the landscape changed drastically.
Even smaller towns endured the exodus of shoppers to large, shiny box stores nearby, making the downtown districts pretty lonely places.
Many municipalities have done good work in recent years in bringing life back to their downtowns, but more work needs to be done.
On Thursday, a group called Revitalize West Virginia’s Downtowns will meet in Fairmont for a public forum on the state’s historic tax credits.
[All event details are here, including similar forums in Wheeling, Charleston and Huntington.]
According to Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe, the group is trying to get the tax credits increased from 10 percent to 25 percent in order to attract more development in the downtown areas.
“It’s a financial incentive for developers to invest in West Virginia,” Howe said. “It puts us on equal footing with our surrounding states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, which already offer 25 percent.”
Jamie Metz, executive director of the Harrison County Economic Development Corporation, said one of the projects already underway would be helped out by an increase in the tax credits.
“It could help right now with the restoration of the Robinson Grand Theater,” Metz said. “And it would also help with the restoration of the Waldo Hotel. It would give developers an opportunity to make restorations in some of these buildings in a more cost-effective manner…”