City Opens Up Vacant Buildings for Sale Tour

For many of those who came out on a rainy Tuesday to tour several vacant city-owned buildings in Wheeling, the decision on whether to buy one of the structures will come down to simple arithmetic.

Although the city is essentially willing to give the properties away to anyone who can present a realistic plan to redevelop them, the cost to rehabilitate the structures could overshadow potential income they may bring. That’s the decision developers such as Dolph Santorine and Heather Slack will have to make.

“It’s a heavy lift, taking a building like this and bringing it back to life,” Santorine said after visiting the old East Wheeling police precinct building on 15th Street.

Slack, a St. Clairsville resident who is rehabilitating buildings in East Wheeling and Center Wheeling, believes the property the city is offering is best suited for rental units as opposed to owner-occupied housing. It will take a steady stream of income for multiple years, she said, to justify the cost of fixing the buildings.

Jon Smith of Allegheny Restoration and Builders said he was checking out the properties on behalf of potential developers whose names he did not disclose. Noting he believes the old police precinct dates back to the mid-1830s – almost three decades before West Virginia became a state – Smith said there’s definite potential there.

The city also opened the former Tom’s Pizza building on Main Street and Keg und Kraut restaurant at the corner of 16th and Wood streets for inspection. Three adjacent buildings and a few vacant lots near the old restaurant, which closed in 2007, form a block of land that could be sold piecemeal or as a group for a larger project.

Everyone who participated in the tour had to sign a liability waiver. Connelly said some of the 15-20 attendees were just curious but most showed serious interest.

There is a May 30 deadline to submit proposals.

The city is also looking to sell the former Gene Long Community Center on Wheeling Island and vacant lots at 134 14th St., 115 and 115 1/2 15th St. and 1401 McColloch St. The Long building was not included on the tour due to safety concerns.

Any proposals the city receives for the properties first would go to the Wheeling Historic Landmarks Commission, which will issue a non-binding recommendation to council. Council could vote to transfer the property to its development arm, the Ohio Valley Area Development Corp., which in turn would sell it.

There is no minimum asking price for any of the parcels, but buyers must submit a plan to secure the property within six months.