City Nears Deal for Howard’s Diamond Center Building

City Manager Robert Herron said Wheeling officials are close to finalizing a deal to purchase and demolish the former downtown location of Howard’s Diamond Center, adding to the more than 40,000 square feet of land the city already has cleared to create open space for future development.

“We’re near an agreement,” Herron said Friday. “My guess is we’ll have something in place within a week or so.”

Workers were seen Friday removing items from the 1125 Market St. building, the entrance to which is now roped off with bright yellow caution tape. The city has been negotiating with building owners Seth and Howard Posin since late February, when the jewelers settled a lawsuit with their insurance company related to damage done to the building during the 1100 block demolition in October 2012.

City Council would have to sign off on any purchase agreement. Herron said the city would use proceeds from its 2011 tax increment financing bond sale to purchase and raze the building, as it did to pay for the rest of the 1100 block project.

Herron would not comment on what the city would be willing to pay for the Howard’s Diamond Center property, noting the purchase price would be made public when it comes before council. The property was appraised at $68,200 in 2008, and its most recent assessed value is $29,588.

This is not the first time Wheeling has attempted to purchase the building, which was one of three the city sought unsuccessfully as part of the original 1100 block project.

Several years ago, when the jewelry store was still open downtown, the Posins refused to sell the building – but the business moved to The Highlands in 2010. And on Oct. 25, 2012, city demolition contractor Dore and Associates knocked a wall onto the Howard’s Diamond Center building in the process of demolishing an adjacent structure, destroying the roof and damaging all three floors.

Hartford Fire Insurance Co.’s subsequent refusal to pay the jeweler’s claim on the building led to the lawsuit, settlement terms of which have not been disclosed. The original suit sought nearly $700,000 in damages.