By Pam Kasey - email
Glenn Adrian feels he was meant to end up in Morgantown. His success there as a developer seems to back that up.
A native of Romney, Adrian graduated from Hampshire High School in 1973. After four years in the U.S. Navy, he attended West Virginia University, earning a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1983.
As a non-traditional student, Adrian carried a heavy load, working maintenance part-time at Morgan Manor Nursing Center while racing through college and, meanwhile, getting married.
But his graduation was delayed by the unexpected start of his career.
One day in 1980, Adrian got a call from Mark Nesselroad, who administered Morgan Manor as an employee of Crossgates Inc. of Pittsburgh.
Sundale Nursing Home, Monongalia County's facility for the indigent, had been slated for closure by the state, Nesselroad told him. Crossgates wanted to take it on. And Nesselroad, who had gotten to know Adrian at Morgan Manor, wanted him to help run it.
Adrian, with some trepidation, said yes.
He recalled his first staff meeting.
"I walk into this staff meeting with Mark and look around the room and about half of them are people that Mark had fired at Morgan Manor who went to work at Sundale," Adrian laughed. "They knew I'd mowed grass and pulled weeds — and he's introducing me as the assistant administrator. I had no credibility."
But the new management team turned Sundale around and, by 1983, was building a replacement facility.
In 1984, Adrian and Nesselroad formalized their partnership in Glenmark Associates Inc., a company dedicated to overhauling nursing care statewide and helping management teams establish new facilities and train their staffs.
Soon, Glenmark owned hospitals outright.
"We had over 20 facilities in West Virginia and one in Virginia," Adrian said. "We had our own institutional pharmacy, which serviced them; we had a rehab facility that did all the physical therapy; we did our own billings to Medicare and Medicaid — we really put together a nice company of people that grew with us."
But the nature of nursing care was shifting, becoming more complex in requirements for skilled nursing, rehabilitation and reimbursement.
The partners' interests shifted, too. They established Glenmark Holding Co. to manage the real estate side of their business and found themselves drawn in that direction.
In 1995, they sold Glenmark Associates and the 20 hospitals and plunged into commercial real estate.
Adrian and Nesselroad had already begun planning Glenmark Centre on 65 acres of rolling hills near Interstate 68 in Morgantown. That property became a retail success, with Lowe's, Michael's Crafts and Shop 'n Save, as well as a variety of smaller shops in home decor, banking, telecommunications and other retail specialties.
The two had also begun what became a long process of revamping Sabraton, a retail corridor near downtown Morgantown with unrealized potential, one property at a time.
But they didn't limit themselves to new retail plazas.
In the late 1990s, they bought a couple of old warehouses and an old house in a dilapidated area down by the Monongahela River.
"Renovations are wonderful, but they're difficult," Adrian said. "It was the most scrutinized project we were ever involved in. And for the most part, we were able to maintain the integrity of those buildings."
Glenmark's timing and instincts were good: Those buildings became the kernel of Morgantown's vibrant Wharf District, developed since with the Waterfront Place Hotel, a major WVU administrative building, the Morgantown Event Center, new office and restaurant space and the popular Caperton rail-trail.
Two of the biggest draws in the Wharf District today, Oliverio's Ristorante and the Mountain State Brewing Co., are in Glenmark-renovated space.
"We like to think we sort of started that process by recognizing the potential," Adrian said.
Still, the partners sought new types of projects.
"We recognized that Morgantown needed Class A office space, so we decided to buy the property on Van Voorhis Road and build United Center," Adrian said. That building, which opened in 2004, houses United Bank, Steptoe & Johnson and other upscale tenants.
By 2011, Adrian and Nesselroad had more than $80 million in commercial and professional real estate developments under their belts. Nesselroad wanted to bring his son into the business. Adrian had gotten involved in some other businesses.
The two decided to part ways — amicably — after 26 years of partnership.
Life Beyond Glenmark
Enrout Properties, in which Adrian had become a partner, had bought 450 acres of underused industrial property across the river from Morgantown in 2007 and created the Morgantown Industrial Park. Developing that is now Adrian's primary effort.
"We're probably the only privately owned industrial park in the state. Most are owned by county development authorities," he said. "But not everybody needs Class A office space."
Following $2 million in infrastructure improvements, the industrial park has grown. Adrian estimates that it currently brings in $30 million of combined tax benefit to the state. Larger tenants include Chemtura, Central Supply, Dominion Hope and WVU's laundry operations, and some of the smaller ones are Blackhawk Interiors and Roto-Rooter.
Rooted in the Community
Through his 30-year career, Adrian has been part of fundamental change in Morgantown and in West Virginia.
He recalled the state of banking in his early years — not all that long ago.
"West Virginia in the 1980s was a state of community banks, and lending was very sparse. Most banks could lend a maximum of $200,000 to $300,000," he said. "Trying to buy a $3 million nursing home, it took nine or 10 banks to be put together."
He said he appreciates everyone who took a chance on Glenmark, and said they were paid back every penny, with interest.
Adrian feels proud of the changes in Morgantown, noting expanded retail and professional options, the revitalization of Sabraton and the riverfront and the availability of high-quality office space.
Through it all, he has also offered his time and skills to the community in other ways.
Among them, he served on the board of the United Way of Monongalia and Preston Counties, a board he chaired for a time. He sat on board the of Monongalia General Hospital Foundation for 20 years, then transitioned to the Mon Health System board, which he now chairs. He served nine years on the board of directors of the WVU Alumni Association. And he's now on the board of the WVU Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Adrian also serves on the board of Bruceton Mills-based Clear Mountain Bank.
He and his wife, Susan, raised two sons, Ryan and Patrick, both also in Morgantown. Ryan and his wife, Shawn, have a two-year-old son, Braylon.
Adrian attributes much of his success to the city's economic strength, but also notes the value, for a developer, of working in one's own community.
"Morgantown, with WVU and Mylan and the hospitals here, provided a good nucleus to grow in commercial real estate," Adrian said. "But it's also just being here, feeling the market."