Welcome to Inspecting Sunnyside.
I want to start off by giving a little background to this project.
My name is Leann Ray, and I’m a graduate student studying journalism at West Virginia University. This blog is my thesis project.
Instead of writing a typical thesis, this blog will be an investigative look at off-campus housing in Morgantown, West Virginia, home of WVU. More specifically, it will focus on the Sunnyside area.
Sunnyside is located west of WVU’s Downtown Campus and encompasses more than 130 acres of land between Campus Drive, Jones Avenue and Eighth Street.
The idea for this project came about early in August 2007 when a collapse of a porch roof on Grant Avenue sent two people to the hospital, and led to six other houses on the street being condemned.
The following month, a former fraternity house that had been reopened for student housing was condemned when city officials found the living conditions were hazardous – a faulty stove that was supposed to be removed after a previous visit was still in the house, illegal bedrooms were placed in unsafe areas and poor wiring were some of the issues.
Sunnyside residents have a reputation for bad behavior and partying. It’s a popular area of town to burn furniture after WVU’s athletic teams have won big games. Or just won a game. Or if Osama bin Laden is killed. There’s really no rhyme or reason to it sometimes.
Some people think it’s awesome. I think it’s terrifying. After the men’s basketball team defeated Texas Tech in 2005 to move onto the regional finals, 50 fires were set around town. Some friends and I decided to go to Grant Avenue to see what it was like. Well, there was a huge fire that people were circled around, and “Country Roads” was being blasted… and pretty much everyone was singing along. What was most terrifying was that the fire was so high, it was just inches from a telephone pole wire. The streets were so crowded with people, the fire truck couldn’t get to the area.
Furniture burning has become so big of a problem that the fire department issued furniture abatement orders before this year’s game against Louisiana State University. Before the game, “37 truckloads of furniture and other combustible items” were removed from porches in certain areas of downtown Morgantown, according to The Daily Athenaeum.
This blog will be an ongoing investigative project where I will post my research findings. Some of the things I will look into include code enforcement, Sunnyside Up, WVU’s Student Government Association, and landlord and tenant issues.
I encourage readers to leave feedback – have questions about something I’ve talked about? Let me know. It’s possible that I could have left something out, or you could point out a different angle that I never even thought about.
Please keep checking back. I will be updating quite frequently, and you can also follow me on Twitter @Leann_Ray.