Work In 1100 Block Again

WHEELING – After a delay of almost six months, Dore and Associates has returned to Wheeling to finish a major downtown demolition project.

The Bay City, Mich., firm returned to the site Monday to complete demolition of the former Feet First building in the 1100 block of Market Street, according to City Manager Robert Herron. The company had halted work after an Oct. 25 collapse caused extensive damage to the neighboring former home of Howard’s Diamond Center, which had not been slated for demolition.

City Manager Robert Herron said the city was able to reach an agreement with Dore to finish the work and avoid litigation with the company, which was supposed to have finished the work in October.

Although officials are pleased work has resumed, it’s unclear how long it will take. Because there is a common wall between the Feet First building and the former jewelry store, the contractor must proceed with caution to avoid further damage to the adjacent building.

“A lot of the work is going to have to be done by hand,” Herron said.

Herron said there have been no discussions at this point about seeking financial penalties from Dore and Associates for exceeding the time period on its $693,600 contract with the city.

“Our interest is getting this contract completed. … Dore is a very reputable company, and they are committed to finishing this contract,” Herron said.

Once the Feet First Building is gone, Dore’s remaining responsibilities include spreading topsoil and grass seed on the site. Herron has said the city has $400,000 set aside to make the site more presentable, though City Council has yet to decide what it will do with the space as it prepares to market the land for future development. Options include temporary parking, green space or a combination of the two.

Meanwhile, Howard’s Diamond Center is suing its insurance company, Hartford Fire Insurance, in federal court for refusing to pay damage resulting from the Oct. 25 collapse. The jewelry store, which relocated to The Highlands after declining to sell the downtown location to the city – claims the building is a “total loss” and is seeking almost $700,000 in damages plus legal fees. Hartford maintains the incident is not a covered cause of loss under the store’s policy.

The city purchased the former Rite Aid, G.C. Murphy, River City Dance Works and Graham buildings in 2008 and, after deciding to raze the structures in late 2011, attempted to purchase the remainder of the buildings on the block. Officials acquired the Feet First building and Dr. Manny Velez’s former dental practice, but they were unable to convince the owners of Howard’s Diamond Center, Vocelli’s Pizza and Panda Chinese Kitchen to sell.