Makeover For Plaza May Be Bid

WHEELING – It is the city’s goal to have the long-awaited renovation of Market Plaza in downtown Wheeling out for bid sometime in March, City Manager Robert Herron said.

Talk of sprucing up the plaza – which once was a hub of commercial activity downtown but today is home to only the Stone Center and a few other businesses – dates back to early 2009, but the city at that time didn’t have the funds to complete the project. Plans developed last year by Hays Landscape Architect Studios at a cost of about $40,000 call for sidewalk repair, new brick work, landscaping and moving back the front wall of the plaza to create room for additional metered parking spaces.

Though the project cost won’t be known before bids are received, the city has set aside $500,000 from a 2011 Tax Increment Financing bond issue for upgrades to the plaza.

“The plaza has been a public space for many years, and it’s in need of renovations,” Herron said. “It will make that end of downtown much more attractive.”

City Council last week approved a $202,000 contract with Jarvis, Downing & Emch of Wheeling to install a new water line across the plaza, replacing an old line that was taken out of service several years ago.

Herron couldn’t recall exactly when the line last was used, but believes it was early in his tenure as city manager, which began in 2002.

According to Herron, work to install the new waterline could begin by mid-February. The city already replaced several taps serving the plaza area this past summer. The cost of that work is being paid through the water department construction fund and is not included in the $500,000 available for the renovation project.

Herron said the infrastructure upgrades will ensure the city can continue to pump water to the Stone Center and surrounding buildings in the event it has to shut down one of the main lines in the area.

There are no major development projects in the works at the plaza, Herron said, but he noted activity at the Stone Center has increased of late with the recent move of Wheeling Jesuit University’s physical therapy program into the building. Another tenant at the center, Williams Lea, recently announced plans to expand its operations – including hiring about 50 additional employees.