Are you living in First Ward but wondering if Suncrest might be a better fit? Moving to town for the first time and not sure where to start? Choosing a neighborhood in Morgantown is all about your priorities.
If you like walkability, parks, and a central location, near-downtown neighborhoods are for you. The north side, around the hospitals and WVU’s Evansdale campus, is all about family and schools. Residents near the highways have a quieter life and easy access to the surrounding region, and Cheat Lakers enjoy modern living and weekends on the water. From there, it’s the specific neighborhoods that define Morgantowners’ lifestyles. Which place is right for you?
Close to Downtown & Campus
For walkability to downtown, it doesn’t get much better than Greenmont. This one-time working-class neighborhood on the streetcar line between downtown and Sabraton’s tin mills and glass factories now houses a mix of owners and renters in early-20th century homes on compact lots—the farthest of which are a 20-minute walk to downtown.
A more affordable near-downtown neighborhood, Greenmont has undergone a renaissance. Today it has more than its share of hangouts and local eats, beloved breadmaker and pizzeria Phoenix Bakery chief among them. Just down the street, Chestnut Brew Works operates a cozy tasting room, and its Halleck Pale Ale is on tap all over town. Beertopia maintains a nice tap list and, as an active homebrew supply shop, hosts frequent conversations about the finer points of beer, wine, hard cider, and mead making. And Greenmont’s longstanding neighborhood bar, Gene’s Beer Garden, is the envy of many neighborhoods. For another kind of brew, local coffee roaster Quantum Bean, already a staple at the Morgantown and Bridgeport farmers’ markets, is set to open its specialty coffee shop on Kingwood Street in the spring of 2018.
Also in the spring, Greenmont’s connectivity is getting even better. The long-awaited Deckers Creek pedestrian bridge between Lower Greenmont and the Deckers Creek Trail will open. Greenmont residents will have direct access to the rail-trail, a short walk to Stanley’s Spot Dog Park, and new traffic-free walkability directly to the farmers’ market, shops, restaurants, and entertainment downtown.
Plotted on a neat grid between Willey Street and Richwood Avenue, Woodburn lies just east of the university’s downtown campus. The neighborhood’s harmonious racial and economic diversity includes both homeowners and renters who enjoy walkability to downtown—either directly, via streets, or by a small detour through Whitmore Park. When its neighborhood Woodburn Elementary closed in 2013, residents worked to keep the building in use. Today the property serves as home to several community nonprofit groups including the PopShop performing arts school and M.T. Pockets Theatre. Woodburn’s neighborhood bar, Mario’s Fishbowl, is voted Best Neighborhood Bar by our readers every year, and Cheese Louise and Town Hill Tavern are other local favorite spots.
South Park has much the same neighborhood walkability and access to downtown as Greenmont, with a grander feel. South Park homes are pricier, but you get what you pay for: tree-lined streets, larger homes with distinctive architectural features, and landscaped front plots with cheery flowers and manicured shrubs.
The South Park Historic District has more than 500 historic homes. Homes nearest town occupy small, easy-maintenance lots in a flat section of the neighborhood. Although parking in this section can be tight, many properties have off-street parking, and on-street parking is managed through blue-painted curbs and city-issued passes. Farther uphill, many homes enjoy spectacular views over downtown and the hills to the west.
South Park residents walk their dogs and strollers evenings and weekends and wave hello to porch-sitting neighbors. The South Park Association of Neighbors meets monthly and hosts a neighborhood-wide yard sale each August when students return to WVU. Morgantown High School sits in South Park, and nearby residents are often treated to the sights and sounds of the high school’s 250-plus-piece marching band. Come Halloween, homeowners in the heart of the neighborhood take it to a higher level—the trick-or-treating here is some of the best in town. Year-round, residents make frequent use of Facebook to connect over everything from found pets to furniture giveaways
First Ward lies south of downtown between Dorsey Avenue and White Park. Like Greenmont, First Ward is a relatively affordable near-downtown neighborhood, with farthest homes a little more than a 20-minute walk from the heart of town but only a 10-minute bike on First-Ward’s flat terrain.
One of the best neighborhoods in town for families just starting out, First Ward has good-sized yards, quiet streets, lots of sidewalks, and great park access. Grassy Jack Roberts Park, at the heart of First Ward, has a playground, a basketball court, and a ballfield. It’s also a choice spot for July 4 picnics, sparklers, and fireworks. At the far edge of First Ward, forested White Park offers walking and biking trails around the reservoir. First Ward also hosts the Morgantown Ice Arena.
Want to get a feel for First Ward? Check out Mundy’s Place, the neighborhood bar, for hot dogs, open mic nights, and live music many Saturday evenings.
Close to Hospitals & Evansdale Campus
The tidy enclave of Evansdale sits between 8th Street and Evansdale Drive. Most of the neighborhood’s 100 or so homes date to the 1950s and ’60s. Serviceberry trees planted by the city 15 years ago bloom white in mid-April and bear edible berries the residents and birds share. The neighborhood is distinguished by a tight-knit but welcoming feel, spectacular views over the Monongahela River from the backs of homes on Riverview Drive, and Blaney House, the sprawling, beautiful home of the president of West Virginia University.
To get to the nearby neighborhood of Wiles Hill and Highland Park, take Stewart Street away from downtown. Everything on the left, from Jones Avenue to Willowdale, is Wiles Hill. Just across Willowdale—Gibbons Street and Eastland Avenue out to McCullough—lies Highland Park. The neighborhoods bridge WVU’s two campuses and offer relatively quick access to both.
The 950 or so homes in these two neighborhoods date to the 1920s through the ’60s. Highland Park is a little leafier, with a gentler landscape; Wiles Hill occupies more dramatic terrain. But children play in pedestrian alleys and on quiet streets in both. Many residents have been in the neighborhood for decades, some living in houses they grew up in.
Children in these neighborhoods attend the same schools. Evansdale is a little closer to dining and shopping. Ogawa Japanese restaurant and Ta-Khrai Thai Cafe sit just across University Avenue, fast-casual options like Panera Bread and Qdoba lie on Patteson Drive, and the Kroger on Patteson is open 24 hours. In Wiles Hill and Highland Park, the heart of the neighborhood is Wiles Hill Park. The Wiles Hill Community Building, a former school now managed by the city’s Board of Parks and Recreation (BOPARC), holds a community art studio and hosts dance classes, mahjong, and other community events.
Suncrest spreads out on broad lawns that homes closer to downtown never had. The neighborhood takes unmistakeable pride in its appearance. And like its lawns, Suncrest itself rambles. Starting from the Coliseum and Krepps Park, it encompasses University Avenue and Collins Ferry Road all the way to Van Voorhis and, in some definitions, beyond. Most homes date to the 1920s to ’50s, and some are architectural showpieces.
Families love Suncrest. The city’s Krepps Park hosts baseball, picnic pavilions, a dog park, and one of the city’s two public swimming pools. The neighborhood’s two elementary schools and middle school are located very close by, making for high family involvement in school programming. Also, because of the neighborhood’s demographics, those schools are the most diverse in town: students at North Elementary, for example, speak more than 30 languages at home.
Those demographics follow from Suncrest’s location near a concentration of professional and scientific institutions that attract staff from all over, places like the city’s two hospital complexes, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and the National Institute for Occupational Science and Health.
This part of town enjoys the full range of Morgantown’s dining experience: fast food to fine dining and many ethnicities. It has quick access to two 24-hour Kroger stores and hosts several specialty groceries, including one Middle Eastern and two Asian grocers.
And sports fans can do no better, with WVU’s Mountaineer Field, Coliseum, soccer stadium, and other athletic facilities close by and the Monongalia County Ballpark, home to WVU baseball and the minor league West Virginia Black Bears, just over the river.
Close to Highways
Sabraton stretches east of downtown along the Deckers Creek valley to Interstate 68. It started out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a cluster of industrial facilities on the creek—a tin plate company, glass factories— that workers living in Greenmont and Woodburn commuted to on the Richwood Avenue trolley. Residential communities gradually formed around the livelihoods, and the independent town of Sabraton was annexed to Morgantown in the mid-20th century.
Today, residents in that part of Morgantown identify themselves into several neighborhoods— in addition to Sabraton, Jerome Park, between Richwood Avenue and Powell Avenue, and Norwood Addition, east of Sabraton Avenue.
The main strip of Sabraton offers plenty of amenities: popular restaurants like Woodburn Shanks for barbecue and hometown favorite Pizza Al’s, along with a small hardware store, a lawn and garden store, and two supermarkets. Fawley Music has town’s largest selection of all things musical instrument and lessons, and the Mon County Habitat for Humanity ReStore makes fixtures, furnishings, and building materials available for re-use. A high-end shooting range, Defense in Depth, also operates here.
Beyond the main shopping and dining strip, this part of town offers affordable homes in quiet residential enclaves along with great outdoor recreation. Paul Preserve in Jerome Park holds a picnic area and basketball court. Marilla Park has ballfields, tennis courts, picnic pavilions, a skate park, and an outdoor swimming pool. And all of Sabraton lies along the Deckers Creek rail-trail, a 19-mile trail that, uphill to the east, follows the creek at a gentle grade through the dramatic Deckers Creek Gorge and mining-era remains to highland wetlands and, downhill to the west, meets up with the Caperton Trail along the Monongahela River in town.
Located beside exits on Interstate 79, the three independent municipalities adjacent to Morgantown—Star City, Granville, and Westover— offer affordability and convenient access to shopping and the surrounding region.
Once home to as many as 13 glass factories, Star City, just north of Morgantown proper, took a blow from the decline of the glass industry and the loss of coal mining across the region. But Star City’s well-traveled University Avenue business corridor between Morgantown and the interstate is attracting new attention and, with that, the town has started to remake itself. Enterprising residents are opening new shops and office spaces and refreshing existing housing stock.
As the region increasingly appreciates the recreational appeal of the Monongahela River and the rail-trail system, Star City’s riverfront is another factor in a budding renaissance. Edith Barill Riverfront Park, with playground, pavilions, and public boat ramp, is a much-used gathering spot and trailhead.
Terra Cafe, a popular spot for espresso drinks, healthy meals, indulgent desserts, and drinks after work, draws people from all across the region. Its location on the rail-trail makes it a great start or midpoint for a walk or bike trip, and its covered terrace is perfect for people-watching. Down the street, Unique Consignment’s gently used furnishings turn over quickly. The Wow! Factory is a favorite place for pottery painting, glass fusing, and other craft activities, and residents love the new Aldi grocery store that opened in early 2018.
Across the Mon River to the west of Morgantown, Westover and Granville offer quiet, affordable, family-friendly neighborhoods. Both have benefited in recent years from annexing adjacent shopping areas, meaning city services like parks, police and fire response, paving, and snow removal are well-funded. It also means a wide variety of shopping is close by—the Morgantown Mall, University Town Centre, and The Gateway, all just off the interstate, offer clothing, housewares, sporting goods, art supplies, casual to fine dining, and much more.
When West Penn Power dammed the Cheat River at the state line in 1925 to harness it for electricity, little did anyone know that the 13-mile-long Cheat Lake the dam created would become Morgantown’s playground and a home for those who prefer outdoor recreation and a beautiful, quiet retreat.
Today, Cheat Lake is one of the Morgantown area’s most affluent and fastest-growing communities. Homes tend to be newer on larger lots, though they range from easy-care townhomes to mansions with beautifully spacious, landscaped grounds.
Cheat Lake especially attracts boaters, fishers, and swimmers who enjoy convenient access to flatwater. Other outdoor pursuits are close at hand, too: paddlers love the river upstream for its class II to III Cheat Narrows and class III to V Cheat Canyon whitewater, and Coopers Rock State Forest’s hiking trails lead to dramatic rock formations for climbing and breathtaking views over the Cheat River Gorge. Lakeview Golf Resort & Spa offers the Morgantown area’s best golfing.
Dining and entertainment reflect Cheat Lake’s casual, outdoor-centered lifestyle. Lakeside dining comes with spectacular sunsets at Crab Shack Caribba, The Lake House Restaurant, and Whippoorwill Bar & Grill. Away from the lake, Tropics Restaurant and Bar serves up authentic Hawaiian food with live entertainment on its expansive, lushly planted decks. And Chestnut Ridge Park offers outdoor concerts every weekend through the summer.
Cheat Lake is removed from the bustle of Morgantown, but it’s not isolated. As the community has grown, businesses have sprung up along the corridor between there and town. Cheat Lakers can find everything from cafe sitting to clothing and housewares to medical services on the path of their commute. In that way, it’s the best of both worlds.
To see even more about these neighborhoods, pick up a copy of the April/May issue in stores until June 7, 2018.