Despite a few speed bumps, a new era for Beckley could arrive in less than a year as West Virginia University moves in.
Mayor Bill O’Brien says he expects the Beckley branch of WVU to bring new life to the city.
“I don’t think anybody actually realizes the future that can happen here,” Mayor O’Brien says. “It’s just going to be outstanding. And from the people I’ve already talked to at West Virginia University, they do everything first class. This is going to be a game changer.”
Safety is going to be a big concern on campus, so the university is planning to open their own police department. Beckley Police say they’re excited to have the extra help around the city.
“It’s going to be really positive,” says Jeffrey McPeake, Beckley Police Department deputy chief. “It’s going to give us a boost in what we can do, and it kinda frees up our officers in that particular area.”
Mayor O’Brien says he’s formed a task force to not only improve the city of Beckley, but also make it safer. The group will fight issues like drugs, homeless people, abandoned buildings and litter around uptown Beckley.
“They have been tasked with looking at what Beckley is with fresh eyes, and making recommendations on how city government can react to do a better job,” O’Brien says.
With an expected first class of about 3,000 students, local business owners are hoping the new campus will cause an economic boom in Beckley.
“I have a food shack over here and I think it’s gonna do a lot of business for Beckley,” says Clancey Shaw, Chicken Shack owner. “Not only that, it’s gonna fill the neighborhood and the city, you know it’s a beautiful place here in Beckley.”
The inaugural semester for WVU Beckley is expected to start next fall.