Paving the Way Forward In Downtown Wheeling

Mayor Says Streetscaping Project Is Key

Photo by Casey junkins Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott takes a break to enjoy the sunshine with his dog Porter on the sidewalk along Market Street.

WHEELING — New surfaces for Main and Market streets, along with upgraded sidewalks, are on the way to downtown Wheeling for the city’s investment of $2 million, Mayor Glenn Elliott said.

Elliott and other city council members are expected to enter a formal agreement with the West Virginia Division of Highways for the streetscape work to occur during their next meeting, which is set for noon Tuesday at Wheeling Park High School, 1976 Park View Road.

“It is no secret that our downtown streetscape is in need of a facelift, and this project gives us the opportunity to improve our downtown footprint with a more aesthetic, more cohesive look and feel,” Elliott said, adding he remains hopeful of eventually seeing two-way vehicle traffic on both Main and Market streets.

For decades, traffic on Main Street has flowed south, while that on Market Street has gone north, largely because the route is still considered part of W.Va. 2.

“It also gives us an opportunity to work with state officials to redesign our traffic flow, crosswalks, and signalization to provide a safer, more comfortable walking environment for pedestrians,” he said of the streetscape project.

Elliott and other council members have said they want to reinvigorate downtown Wheeling into the kind of area it was decades ago: a place in which one can live, work, shop and enjoy entertainment, all within walking or bicycling distance. He said these types of infrastructure upgrades are vital to achieving this goal.

“The larger goal, of course, is to stimulate additional economic revitalization in our central business district, and how that landscape looks and feels from the ground level can have a considerable impact on investment and commerce,” Elliott said.

If a majority of council members — which includes Elliott, Vice Mayor Chad Thalman, Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday and Councilmen Ken Imer, Brian Wilson, Ty Thorngate and Dave Palmer — approve the agreement Tuesday, Elliott said work could begin before the end of this year, but would be more likely to start in early 2018.

“Once the DOH has hired a design consultant for this project, which should be in the next month or so, we will have a better idea of the scheduling,” he said. “It is thought that the overall project would span two construction seasons, but that could change.”

The project will utilize tax increment financing, which is a tool that allows local governments to borrow money for development projects in a defined district, on the promise they will repay the debt with the proceeds from future gains in property tax revenue within that district.

Elliott remains concerned about how the potential loss of greyhound racing at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack could affect the city’s TIF funding in future years if a bill to discontinue the state’s Greyhound Breeding Development Fund becomes law.

The agenda for the Tuesday meeting indicates council will hold a second reading of the ordinance to increase fines for overtime parking from $3 per ticket to $10 per ticket. However, City Clerk Janice Jones said she expects council to table this matter, as City Manager Robert Herron said council will need to hold a public hearing on the issue before voting on it. Jones said this public hearing is set for the beginning of the 5:30 p.m. April 18 meeting, which will be at the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

In addition to the streetscape project, council will also vote on an ordinance to spend $170,980 with Edgco Inc. to demolish the former water filtration building in Warwood.

The status of American Legion Post 89 is not on the Tuesday agenda, as council members have said they hope to vote on this during the April 18 session.