Sale of City Property Falls Through

WHEELING – New housing planned near the city’s $3.3 million recreation park under construction in East Wheeling is on hold for now.

Purchase options held by two developers on several city-owned properties – Kristoffy Real Estate on the former police precinct building on 15th Street and a building and two vacant lots on Wood Street adjacent to the former Keg und Kraut building, and the Vandalia Heritage Foundation on a vacant lot on 14th Street – are set to expire today. The options were tied to the developers’ ability to obtain funding for their projects.

The Federal Housing Loan Bank of Pittsburgh turned down applications for funding by both companies. That means the properties will remain under city control, at least for now.

“We’re disappointed that the funding didn’t work out, but I think as the J.B. Chambers Recreation Park comes to completion, there will be other opportunities for those buildings,” City Manager Robert Herron said.

Heather Slack of Kristoffy Real Estate said the federal grant program is need-based, and their proposal was passed over in favor of other projects such as homeless shelters and domestic violence shelters. Despite the setback, both she and Vandalia President and CEO Laura Kurtz Kuhns – whose company earlier this year wrapped up a $3.1 million housing development project in the East Wheeling neighborhood and has rented all but one of its available units – said their companies remain interested in the properties and are exploring alternative funding options.

Wheeling officials did not release proposed purchase prices for any of the properties, but said previously the city may be willing to sell them for as little as $1 in order to get them back into private ownership.

Although the purchase options are set to expire, it doesn’t necessarily mean a trip back to the drawing board. Herron said the city could still work something out with Kristoffy and Vandalia should other funding sources become available, but if more than a year passes – the purchase option agreements were approved in August – the process would have to begin anew with a second request for proposals on the properties.

Slack, whose company’s historical renovation projects include the former Riley Flats apartments on 15th Street, hopes city leaders are willing to do that, for East Wheeling’s sake.

“I hope they do that, rather than tear them down,” Slack said. “It’s a small neighborhood, really easy to turn around in a matter of years.”

Herron said there are no plans to demolish any of the buildings at this point.