WJU Planning New Residential Facility

WHEELING – Wheeling Jesuit University wants to build a multi-story residential complex on Washington Avenue as it seeks to address a shortage of housing for students and younger faculty members, city officials said Tuesday.

City Council on Tuesday received notice WJU and developer Jonathan Bedway are seeking a zone change for property at 232, 234, 236, 238 and 240 Washington Ave. and voted unanimously to refer the matter for further review by the city Planning Commission. Preliminary drawings submitted to the city depict a three-story building with a total of 36 units, according to Assistant Director of Economic and Community Development Tom Connelly.

The property – including three houses and two vacant lots – is zoned for single-family residential use only, and the university wants the land rezoned for educational, medical and office use – a classification under which higher-density residential living is permitted.

Both Bedway and the Rev. James Fleming, who will succeed departing university President Richard Beyer on July 1, confirmed the university’s intention to build housing on those properties. However, Fleming said details such as how many floors the building will be or how many units it will contain remain in flux as the school continues to seek input from neighborhood residents.

“We really don’t have a final plan yet because we’re so early in the process. … I can say it will fit in very nicely and will look a bit nicer than some of the houses that are there now,” he said. “They’re a bit run down.”

WJU has about 400 students pursuing graduate degrees, but no dedicated residential facility for those individuals. While announcing the university’s plan to move its physical therapy program downtown to the Stone Center last month, Fleming noted “every bed we have is filled.”

Pointing out the university’s planned expansion into downtown, Mayor Andy McKenzie said the community is “fortunate” to see Wheeling Jesuit growing.

“Any time you see institutions in our community investing in our community, that’s a good thing,” McKenzie said.

The university owns 236 Washington Ave. and empty lots at 232 and 240 Washington Ave. The houses at 234 and 238 Washington Ave. are owned by WFM Properties LLC and David Delvecchio, respectively, according to the Ohio County Assessor’s Office website.

The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the proposed zone change June 10.

Though it could issue a recommendation to City Council to approve or deny the request at that time, Connelly said it’s more likely the commission first will send the matter to its zoning subcommittee for further review.