Sunnyside used to be a vibrant student community close to Downtown campus but just far enough away to feel separate from the influence of the University. The streets were lined with older houses with sprawling porches perfect to accommodate the overflow of the big parties the neighborhood was so famous for. Every weekend the lively disturbances of students could be heard all through the nights. The community was also a hot spot for the notorious couch burnings and dumpster fires to celebrate big Mountaineer wins.
But in 2012, the dynamic of Sunnyside began to change. In October 2012, WVU announced its plans to develop an apartment complex in the heart of the neighborhood. University Place also planned to include retail and additional parking opportunities. While the plans were primarily put into place to offer more housing options for students, it was no doubt an ulterior motive to dampen the partying spirit of the community. In the face of several media-making headlines about post-game riots, dumpster fires, and topping the party school charts, the University decided to undergo a culture change, moving away from their negative reputation. It was no coincidence that they chose to put a new complex in the current culture’s hub.
And so, in early 2013, much to the disappointment (and anger) of many, the entire 2000 block of Sunnyside was torn down to begin development of U Place. This demolition included the beloved and iconic bar Mutt’s (which its temporary closure sparked theories of a curse brought upon WVU athletics). The Sunnyside porches of the past were destroyed, leaving behind only memories of what the neighborhood once was.
Fast forward to 2016. Sunnyside is virtually unrecognizable, and there’s no porches in sight. There’s new construction on a privately-owned apartment complex U Club Sunnyside right next door to U Place, and University Avenue is getting an upgrade of its own. While its facelift made the neighborhood fresher and modernized, it’s hard not to be nostalgic for the Sunnyside of the past.
Don’t get me wrong, WVU was in desperate need of a culture change. But it seems like a huge chunk of Mountaineer history is gone now. The neighborhood seems generic and hollow, and the University is missing so much of what made it unique now. Sunnyside just doesn’t seem as bright anymore.