Development’s Possible Cost to Wheeling Taxpayers Unknown

Photo by Alex Meyer Wheeling councilwomen Melinda Koslik, left, and Wendy Scatterday listen at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

The redevelopment of two downtown city-owned buildings could involve taxpayer funds, as Wheeling City Council and Main Street Ventures continue to work through the details of rehabilitating 1107 and 1109 Main St.

Council on Tuesday took the next step in advancing the redevelopment of the properties, as council unanimously approved transferring them to the Ohio Valley Area Development Corp. This will allow the city to sell the properties to a developer.

“It’s taken longer than we all would have liked, but if this comes to fruition it’s really going to be a nice success story for the city,” City Manager Robert Herron said.

The redevelopment plan’s final details are still being worked out, as the city could play a financial role in helping the projects become a reality, Mayor Glenn Elliott said. Preliminary plans call for a possible restaurant, coffee shop, office space and apartments at the two locations.

The city has sought to renovate the buildings since the prior city council was in office, Herron said. The project would involve significant structural repairs to the buildings and renovating the spaces for retail and apartment use.

Also at the meeting, council filled an empty seat on the city’s Human Rights Commission, left vacant after former chairman Steve Novotney resigned in January. Council unanimously voted to appoint Rosemary Ketchum, associate director of the Marian House Drop-In Center, to the commission.

In addition to working at the mental health help center, 115 18th St., Ketchum studies clinical psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University and works with human rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia.

“I’ve worked hard to elevate the conversation around human rights and elevate the power and potential of our most vulnerable citizens,” Ketchum said. “I’m very grateful for the appointment and hope to move along the mission of the commission to be more proactive.”

Councilman Dave Palmer echoed Elliott’s sentiments and thanked the also city’s Water Department for fixing water line breaks in the city on a daily basis.

Council also heard from Wheeling resident Jerry Jacobs during the public comment period. Jacobs complained the city did not return his requests for information regarding its proposed downtown parking garage.

Jacobs also suggested alternate approaches for funding the proposed parking facility at 1145 and 1147 Main St., such as having the owners of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building lease the property or having the federal government enter a joint venture with the city to construct the garage on a different property.

The proposed parking structure, estimated at $11 million, would facilitate the rehabilitation of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building, city officials have said. A funding source for it still needs to be determined.

In response, city officials said they had received Jacobs’ requests and made the information available. Elliott added that any decisions on the proposed structure would have to be approved by council and would involve a public hearing.

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