Riverfront Amphitheater Put on Hold Indefinitely

Members of the Riverfront Development Committee in New Martinsville say construction of a riverfront amphitheater at Washington Street has been stalled.

“Right now, the door has been closed on this project for an indefinite amount of time,” said Councilman and committee member Steve Pallisco.

The committee has encountered problems obtaining a deed to vacant property owned by WesBanco, located directly behind its downtown New Martinsville branch.

The committee cannot seek grants for the project unless it has deeds to the two properties involved – the riverfront properties on each side of Washington Street.

Wetzel County already has handed over the deed for the lot behind the courthouse, with a provision that if it is not developed, ownership reverts back to the county. Pallisco said a similar agreement could be drawn up with WesBanco.

WesBanco officials said the bank is willing to work with the community regarding the project.

“We believe that the parcel in question is some or all of our employee and customer parking lot,” Paul M. Limbert, WesBanco’s chief executive officer, said via e-mail. “We have been involved in discussions about this parcel for a number of years and are willing to continue those discussions.

“We would be willing to consider a viable offer for the purchase of some portion of our property,” Limbert continued. “As an active member of the business community of New Martinsville we certainly are in favor of business development and the vitality of the community. We are ardent supporters of all of the communities we serve.”

The recent push for riverfront development in New Martinsville began in earnest in 2005.

Phase I of the riverfront development, announced at that time, calls for the construction of a concrete amphitheater near the Washington Street landing with a docking area for Ohio River traffic, public restrooms and a lane accessible for motor vehicles to allow for the loading and unloading of equipment at the amphitheater.

A similar plan for a riverfront amphitheater was designed in the early 1980s. The projected cost for the construction is $5.5 million.

“Understand that the committee is not dissolving. We have other doors we’re going to walk through,” said Pallisco.

He said the committee will work on other projects for the waterfront, but at this time the amphitheater project is not viable.

“I believe very strongly in it, and I think it is a very sad day to say at this time we cannot move ahead,” Mayor Lucille Blum said.

“We still need this project. We still need riverfront development because we still have almost 13 percent unemployment and we need to do something,” Pallisco said.

Work will continue on the feasibility study, as it will be needed no matter what kind of riverfront development goes forward.