Former School Back On Market

WHEELING – Darryl Baynes had high hopes for the former Clay School in East Wheeling when he bought it from the Ohio County Board of Education, but 10 years later, the building is back on the market.

Since 2003, Baynes has seen his dream of building a recreation and science center for area youth in the former school building fade. He doesn’t have the money to fix up the building or tear it down, and efforts to seek funding for the project have proven futile thus far.

Now, a “For Sale” sign hangs from the front of the old school that dominates almost an entire block of 15th Street – and while he’s not giving up on his plan altogether, Baynes is willing to move on, if the price is right.

He’s asking $400,000 for the building, which he bought about a decade ago for $65,000 and said he’s put about $150,000 into since. But it would need hundreds of thousands more in work to bring it up to code, and even razing it could cost around $300,000 – a sum Baynes said previously he doesn’t have.

“I’ve had a couple calls,” he said. “I’m keeping my options open in case nothing comes through.”

Baynes suggested the city was interested in buying the building, razing it and using the property – located across the street from where the city is building a $3.3 million recreation facility – as a parking lot.

But Mayor Andy McKenzie said the city will not need additional parking for the recreation facility. City Manager Robert Herron previously said there was room for about 120 on-street parking spaces around the perimeter of the park, which will feature a lighted artificial turf field, basketball courts, playground equipment and restrooms.

McKenzie would not rule out purchasing the building, but said he had not spoken with Baynes in “several months.”

“I wish him luck. … He has to do something with the building,” McKenzie said. “The building is in disrepair.”

Baynes, a former resident of Philadelphia who offers science programs for youth and continuing education for teachers through his company, Interactive Science Programs, said he hopes to recover the money he’s put into the building and perhaps have enough left over to buy a structure elsewhere.

“It’s very disappointing, because the plan I have would fit perfectly with the development going on out there,” Baynes said. “But if no one’s willing to help, I’m not going to beat my head against the wall.”

Clay School was built during the 1940s and operated for about 50 years, closing in the 1990s.