Movement on Gateway Park Expected Soon

Almost two years after the project was first announced, plans for the future Heritage Port Gateway Park in downtown Wheeling finally are moving forward, according to Susan Hogan.

As the name would suggest, the project aims to provide a picturesque pathway between the city’s waterfront venue and Main Street. Officials announced the project in November 2010, but the sign marking the former site of Waterbed Warehouse as the park’s future home still looms over a slope covered with bricks, rocks and litter.

Hogan said the extended delay was due to difficulty in finding someone to donate the large amount of topsoil required to begin construction.

Having the soil donated was necessary to keep the project within budget, she noted.

“We are waiting on an excavator to finish up one job … and that soil is being donated to this project. … We’ll have a lot of soil dumped down there within the next two to three weeks … and the rest will take place after that,” said Hogan, who is a member of the Wheeling Arts and Culture Commission and the chairwoman for Downtown Wheeling Inc.’s design committee.

Downtown Wheeling Inc. is the organization formerly known as Organization, Training, Revitalization and Capacity, or ON TRAC.

Hogan said most of the soil is being donated by Kevin Coyne from his property along Bethany Pike near Oglebay Park, with a couple truckloads also being donated from the installation of artificial turf at Brooke High School’s football field.

“I’m excited to start seeing green as opposed to rubble and that deep cut in the hillside there,” said Hogan, who is optimistic the park will be completed sometime next summer. “It’ll be a nice location to sit and gather.”

An illustration of the concept for the park shows two grass- or ivy-covered mounds.

A crushed stone path that Hogan said will be wheelchair-accessible will wind between the mounds, spiral around the lower one and past a semicircle of sandstone surrounding a flat lawn area and down to the sidewalk along Water Street.

Hogan said she hopes to have some sort of centrally located sculpture at the park that “will draw everyone’s eye.” She also hopes to incorporate some tin ornaments into that sculpture that were salvaged from the facade of one of the buildings razed as part of the ongoing demolition of much of the 1100 block of Main and Market streets.

The estimated cost of the park project is $87,000, funded through excess Tax Increment Financing money acquired from the West Virginia Development Office in 2008.

TIF allows governments to borrow money to finance projects with the expectation that the attached property’s value will eventually increase, providing tax revenue that can be used to repay the loan.

At the time the project was announced, architects said the park is designed to be removed in case a job-creating business decides it wants to occupy that space.