Still Under Repair

WHEELING – Rogers Hotel owner Mark Jaber believes he will be able to correct code violations at the dilapidated downtown Wheeling building in time to avoid paying a $20,000 fine, he told Municipal Judge Don Nickerson on Wednesday.

Repairs to the building’s roof should be complete by Monday, the Akron, Ohio, resident told Nickerson during a court appearance to address his progress in fixing the vacant structure at the corner of 14th and Market streets. City Code Official Frank Wilson said inspectors took photographs of the roof Tuesday from a structure across the street and found no fault with the work.

“It looks like he’s doing it the way he’s supposed to be doing it,” Wilson said.

Once the roof work is complete, Jaber said he plans to finish stone work on the building’s facade and replace a door before moving on to renovating the lobby and a space in which he hopes to open a restaurant on the first floor.

On Feb. 27, Nickerson fined Jaber $20,000 for code violations at the hotel, but he suspended collection of the fine for nine months to give Jaber a chance to correct those violations by late November.

Jaber purchased the eight-story building in 2005. But fed up with several years of inaction on the vacant building, Wheeling’s Building Code Board of Appeals referred the matter to municipal court last July in hopes of spurring Jaber to action.

That approach seems to have worked – at least to a degree. Following the hearing, Wilson said Jaber will need to supply the building with electricity and show more detailed plans for the restaurant he hopes to open. For now, however, Wilson is satisfied.

“We’re happy that he’s working on it, and we hope he meets his deadline,” Wilson said.

Built almost 100 years ago, the “fireproof” Rogers Hotel closed in the late 1980s and was condemned almost 20 years ago, in 1994. However, the city took no action to force its previous owners to raze the structure, and Jaber purchased it for $3,000, announcing plans to open a full-scale casino inside.

Years passed, however, as Jaber failed to follow through with those plans. In 2010, he nearly lost control of the building when a Ritchie County, W.Va., outfit, Purple Properties LLC, attempted to acquire it for $20 at a tax sale. But Jaber maintained ownership by paying almost $3,900 in then-delinquent taxes.

On Wednesday, Nickerson ordered Jaber to return to court Oct. 23 to give another progress report. Officials have said the structure does not pose an immediate hazard to anyone.