Company Is Exploring Housing

WHEELING – An Ohio company with plans to build a senior apartment complex in Elm Grove is also exploring construction of 40 townhomes in the South Wheeling area, according to City Manager Robert Herron.

The proposed development, LaBelle Greene, would sit on a roughly two-acre site along 32nd Street in the shadow of the shuttered LaBelle Nail Plant, which closed in 2010. It’s the main component of a plan known as the Jacob Street Corridor Community Revitalization Plan that City Council will consider adopting via resolution during its 5:30 p.m. meeting today at the City-County Building.

Herron said council’s adoption of the plan is necessary for Woda Group LLC to receive tax credits for the project from the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. A preliminary timeline for the LaBelle Greene development shows construction beginning next year with leasing of units starting in 2016, but council approval of the Jacob Street Corridor plan represents only an early step toward the project’s completion, according to Herron.

“That doesn’t mean the project will move forward,” he said. “It’s one component of their tax credit application.”

As the area’s industrial base fades and Wheeling continues to lose population, city leaders have identified a lack of quality, affordable housing as a major issue. Herron said the proposed development is not Section 8 housing, but is geared toward those who are employed but of low- to moderate-income.

One side effect of the local oil and gas boom has been a squeeze on renters who can’t afford to pay what industry workers are able to offer landlords. And the city’s housing stock is aging, with the median age of a home in Wheeling at 73 years, according to information in the Jacob Street Corridor plan.

“There’s a definite need for affordable housing in our community. … I think it would be a good project for South Wheeling and the city of Wheeling, for that matter,” Herron said of the proposed LaBelle Greene development.

The resolution identifies Jacob Street Corridor as the area bound by 31st and 38th streets, W.Va. 2 and the Ohio River. In addition to completion of LaBelle Greene, the proposed revitalization plan for the area lists additional, broad goals such as economic development and enhancing community facilities, including parks and recreation, but with few specifics.

According to Herron, there are no other projects in the works in connection with the Jacob Street Corridor plan, but he believes there may be additional opportunities in the future.

“There’s some potential for some in-fill housing,” he said.

Based in Westerville, Ohio, the Woda Group operates the Providence Greene apartments in North Wheeling and has received approval from the city Planning Commission to build a 40-unit apartment building for seniors on the site of the former Fort Henry Motor Inn in Elm Grove. The company also has apartment complexes in Weirton.

Thomas Simons, Woda Group’s senior vice president, could not be reached Monday for comment.