Building Faces Wrecking Ball

WHEELING – There may be a window of opportunity to keep the wrecking ball away from the former Imperial Pools building in East Wheeling, but Mayor Andy McKenzie said it is rapidly closing.

McKenzie confirmed there has been discussion about trying to save the dilapidated 1401 McColloch St. building, primarily among members of a new committee on historic preservation he formed earlier this year. But in order for that to happen, they must come up with a realistic plan to renovate the building and a way to pay for it.

The plan, according to City Manager Robert Herron, is for Edgco Inc. to perform the demolition while the firm is in Wheeling tearing down an entire city block nearby to make way for a planned community sports field. McKenzie said he expects Edgco to finish that work by the end of this month, so officials likely would have to see meaningful progress by then on such a plan or the demolition will proceed.

“At this time, I do not know if it will be saved but there are several people working on finding funds and other interested people,” McKenzie said.

Last month, City Manager Robert Herron announced the city’s intention to tear down the building as City Council approved a contract for asbestos inspections of several structures that included the Imperial Pools building. He said after lengthy efforts to bring its most recent owner, Dog Bone Properties LLC, to municipal court to deal with building code violations, the company agreed to turn over the deed to the city.

By taking ownership of the building, the city basically absolved the prior owner of any financial obligation tied to demolition of the structure. Typically, the city razes structures deemed unsafe by code enforcement officials and then places a lien against the property in hopes of someday recouping the cost of demolition.

But that can be a lengthy process, and with Edgco already in the area, Herron said it was time to act. It will cost about $48,000 to raze the building, he said, compared to about $67,000 to demolish it later as a stand-alone project.

The building and its deteriorating, ivy-covered exterior is visible to motorists passing East Wheeling on W.Va. 2. The Victorian-era structure dates back to the late 19th century and once served as the Jefferson School prior to becoming home to the former Imperial Pools business.

McKenzie said he believes the building has been vacant for at least 20 years. He said he’s been inside and the structural issues are obvious – including a virtually non-existent roof and large sections of both the first and second levels that have caved into the floors below. According to Herron, the city fire department wasn’t even willing to use the building to conduct training exercises.