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West Virginia State obtains rehab center

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia State University has taken ownership of the West Virginia Rehabilitation Center in Institute.

The Rehab Center -- 15 buildings on 20 acres of land bordering the university campus -- has been unoccupied for years. It was shuttered in March 2011 by the state Fire Marshall, who said at the time electrical problems posed an "imminent threat" to occupants.

At the time the facilities housed the state Department of Rehabilitation Services, but the proclamation was the climax of a protracted dialogue between several state agencies that were concerned with deteriorating conditions at the complex.

The state Department of Education once controlled the state-owned facility, but it was later transferred to the Department of Administration.

In November 2010, an in-depth review of conditions at the site found severe problems with electricity and wiring. Needed repairs were estimated at more than $9 million. More than 160 workers would need to be relocated while the electrical work was completed.

Thunderstorms complicated matters, though, and in March 2011 the Fire Marshall inspected the facility and determined that the situation was so dire that it should not be occupied. It has been unused ever since.

The property contains 15 buildings but for now West Virginia State is concentrating on renovating the four-story administration building known as the F. Ray Power Building.

The property transfer was approved by the state Board of Public Works in a meeting on Monday. 

West Virginia State spokesman Jack Bailey said officials believe that structure can be renovated and used as office space for the university. It contains more than 31,000 square feet of offices, plus conference rooms.

"Beyond that it's going to be a work in progress," Bailey said. "We need to get in there and assess what there is, what its condition is, what its condition is now versus what it was."

Crews will begin assessing the condition of the other structures as early as this week, Bailey said, although officials "fully anticipate that many of those aren't going to be in usable condition." Those buildings will remain closed until they have been evaluated.

The decision to take over the facility was the result of WVSU's efforts to expand its campus. Logistically this property, which borders the school's campus in Institute, made sense to administrators. The Kanawha River blocks the campus on one side, the Interstate blocks it on another, and rows of houses block it on the third.

Even though a long-term plan for the property is still in the works, officials saw the grab for the property as a commitment to growth at the school.

"The potential academic and economic development opportunities of repurposing the former Rehabilitation Center property are significant," Hemphill said in a release. "WVSU is committed to developing a long-term strategy to support this expansion."

Contact writer Shay Maunz at or 304-348-4886.

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