Downtown Projects Are Moving Forward

Wheeling officials are close to learning the cost of two long-awaited downtown projects: The makeover of Market Plaza and Heritage Port Gateway Park.

The city will open bids for the projects on Monday, according to City Manager Robert Herron. Both have been in the works for several years, with the gateway park first announced in late 2010 and talk of renovating Market Plaza dating back to at least early 2009.

“These two projects will impact the downtown area,” Herron said.

Wheeling already has spent about $200,000 to replace water lines beneath Market Plaza, which runs along the west side of Market Street between 10th and 11th streets, and has earmarked another $500,000 for the renovation project itself.

Plans call for sidewalk repair, new brick work, additional landscaping and moving back the front wall of the plaza to create room for additional metered parking spaces. There also will be parking on the plaza to accommodate Wheeling Jesuit University’s free physical therapy clinic inside the Stone Center.

Once the city awards the contract, the company selected will have about four months to complete the work.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Port Gateway Park will be situated on the lot at 11th and Main streets where Waterbed Warehouse once stood.

The previous cost estimate for the Gateway Park was $87,000, but plans reportedly were tweaked slightly in an effort to hold the cost down. Original drawings show a crushed stone path winding between two grass covered mounds that will allow pedestrians to negotiate the downward slope from Main Street to the waterfront area.

Metal sculptures for the park, designed by local artist Jeff Forster, are under construction. They will include large birds and a life-sized elephant reminiscent of the circus elephant that once crossed the Wheeling Suspension Bridge regularly.

The city plans to fund both projects through revenue from a previous tax increment financing bond sale.

Tax increment financing is a tool that allows local governments to borrow money for development projects in a defined district, on the promise they will repay the debt with the proceeds from future gains in property tax revenue within that district. Both projects also were designed by Hays Landscape Architect Studios of St. Clairsville.