No Deal Yet On Building

WHEELING – Reaching an agreement to purchase Howard’s Diamond Center’s vacant downtown building is taking longer than anticipated for Wheeling officials, who aren’t saying much about the status of negotiations.

A deal seemed imminent less than three weeks ago, as City Manager Robert Herron on March 21 said the city was “near an agreement” with the Posin family, which owns the building in the 1100 block of Market Street. At that time, he said he hoped to have a deal in place within a week or so.

Prior to last week’s City Council meeting, council’s Development Committee went behind closed doors for about a half hour to discuss “property acquisition.”

No action was taken following the executive session.

Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge, a member of the committee, would not confirm the Howard’s Diamond Center was a topic of that meeting, saying only, “there were several things we discussed.” Neither of the other two Development Committee members, Mayor Andy McKenzie and Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey, responded to requests for comment Monday.

Herron said Monday he had nothing new to report.

Howard Posin said he remains interested in working out a deal with the city, but he declined to comment on the status of negotiations or what the jewelry store is asking for the property. He said he wasn’t sure if they city had made an official offer for the building.

“It’s in the attorneys’ hands. … We really shouldn’t make any comment,” Posin said.

Several years ago, when Howard’s Diamond Center was still open downtown, the Posins refused to sell the building – but the business moved to The Highlands in 2010. And on Oct. 25, 2012, city demolition contractor Dore and Associates knocked a wall onto the Howard’s Diamond Center building in the process of demolishing an adjacent structure, destroying the roof and damaging all three floors.

Hartford Fire Insurance Co.’s subsequent refusal to pay the jeweler’s claim on the building led to a federal lawsuit which was settled in February.

Delbrugge said she hasn’t made up her mind whether purchasing and demolishing the building would be the right move for the city.

“There’s still a lot of questions,” she said.

Herron previously has said the building will eventually have to be demolished due to its condition, regardless of who ultimately owns the property.