WVNCC Brightens Downtown

There is an old-time hymn that urges people to “brighten the corner where you are.” In the secular realm, officials of West Virginia Northern Community College and their design consultants are indeed brightening the corner of 16th and Market streets in downtown Wheeling.

Those of us who work in that downtown neighborhood have watched with abundant anticipation and curiosity as contractors have begun the process of transforming the former Straub automotive properties into modern educational facilities for the community college. Work is nearing completion on the first phase of the project, the repurposing and expansion of the former Honda dealership building on the corner of 16th and Market streets.

We watched with great interest as the letters spelling out the structure’s new name – Applied Technology Center – were affixed to the front of the building at mid-week. Upright banners bearing the Northern logo also were attached to the exterior of the renovated facility. Pedestrians gave a silent cheer as the new sidewalks were opened around the site.

Other finishing touches are being added to the new center, signaling the final phases of this work. We’re told that a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Applied Technology Center is planned for early May. In the near future, students will begin utilizing the complex to learn the latest technologies to prepare for 21st-century careers.

Meanwhile, work continues at a rapid pace on the other corner as the former Hyundai dealership building is being rebuilt and expanded for Northern’s new student center and Barnes and Noble bookstore. In a relatively short span, crews leveled all but one wall of the original structure and teams began to construct the new facility.

Wheeling architect Victor Greco, who designed the new facilities, deserves major awards for his innovative concepts and thoughtful attention to detail on the massive project. Greco utilized stonework on the Applied Technology Center to complement the beautiful sandstone of West Virginia Independence Hall, the National Historic Landmark located on the opposite corner of 16th and Market streets, and to echo the stonework on the college’s B&O Building situated diagonally across from the new center. In Greco’s vision, the brick facade of the Applied Technology Center matches the B&O Building’s red brick exterior.

Showing attention to detail, the architect designed the cool, new copper awnings on the Applied Technology Center as an homage to the copper trim on the roof of the B&O Building. Greco also plans to have green accents on the Applied Technology Center and on the student center-bookstore complex as a visual nod to the green tile roof of the B&O Building.

Area libraries have done a spectacular job this past week in observing National Library Week. At the Ohio County Public Library, Dr. Charles Julian of Wheeling offered a fascinating presentation Tuesday, April 16, on the history of libraries in the city.

As this column was being written, I was looking forward to a special edition of Lunch With Books at the Ohio County Public Library Friday, April 19, when area residents were invited to share their own “Library Memories.”

West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling was tapped to serve as host for the special Lunch With Books session, sharing poetry and thoughts about libraries. Harshman also was scheduled to read greetings from West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to commemorate National Library Week.

Kudos go to Sean Duffy, coordinator of adult programming at the library, for organizing the two nostaglic and informative programs to explore the library’s contributions to the community and, in turn, to celebrate the community’s involvement in the development of local library services.

“April is the cruellest month …” wrote T.S. Eliot in the opening line of his poem, “The Waste Land,” but little did the poet know how cruel the month would become in modern times.

As we confront the horror of terror and the terrible price of natural disasters, may we pray for the victims of the bombing at the Boston Marathon site, the fertilizer plant explosion in Texas and the flooding in the Midwest.

May we be consoled by the resilience of the American people and the genuine good that exists in most hearts as demonstrated by all who came to the aid of the injured with scant regard for personal safety.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer. net