Developer in Wheeling Calls Intermodal Lease Plan ‘Market Interference’

Ohio Valley Regional Transportation authority buses pull up to the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center in downtown Wheeling. Photo by Casey Junkins

WHEELING — Just around the corner from where Grow Ohio Valley officials want to run a market in a Main Street space they would rent for $150 per month, Steve Cohen plans to open a deli, bakery and cafe at the triangular Flatiron Building.

Cohen declined to say how much building owner, Kevin Duffin, is going to charge him to rent the space, but said it is more than $150 per month.

Meanwhile, those hoping to board a Greyhound bus in Wheeling still often find themselves out in the weather on Market Street because the bus company, as well as local ticket agent Patrick Viola, say they have no interest in returning to the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center.

“Downtown Wheeling is on the upswing with new business investment and the city deserves credit for incentivizing it. But, this entrepreneurial momentum suffers with such market interference,” said Cohen of the city’s plan to lease the Main Street ground floor of the intermodal to Grow OV for $150 per month.

“The city has had virtually zero interest in this space for the 7-8 years that it has sat vacant. The most recent interest was roughly five years ago, but it involved a potential tenant who was already renting space from the private sector nearby,” said Mayor Glenn Elliott.

“Grow OV approached us with a plan to convert this available space into something that would help fill a larger community need.”

‘The Flatiron’

Just to the south of the intermodal, Cohen said he hopes to open “The Flatiron” cafe before summer. He said he plans to have a deli, bakery, espresso bar and wine bar, as well as beer garden on the side of the structure facing Nailers Way (formerly South Street).

“We will support local craft brewers and local distributors,” said Cohen of those from whom he would purchase his items.

The unique Flatiron Building is just up the street from the 73-unit Boury Lofts complex. Duffin said he is building seven “high-end luxury” loft apartments on the upper floors of his building.

Duffin declined to indicate how much capital he has invested in the Flatiron Building. However, extensive window and facade upgrades are obvious, while he also said the building features new electrical wiring and fire suppression equipment, among many other improvements.

Lease and Greyhound Stop

In the proposed lease, the $150 per month payment would only be in effect for the final four and a half years of the five-year lease, meaning the first six months would be free. The plan would make the 501(c)(3) nonprofit gardening group responsible for utilities, cleaning and maintenance at the intermodal.

Grow OV is asking the city to fund about $27,000 worth of electrical and plumbing upgrades before the market would open, but city leaders have not yet agreed to this.

Last year, Elliott and Thalman joined fellow city council members in a 7-0 unanimous vote to allow City Manager Robert Herron to negotiate a lease for the space, which has remained vacant since the Greyhound bus company left several years ago. Elliott and City Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth said council members still will have to vote to approve the final lease, which she said is being finalized.

Meanwhile, there is no resolution to the Greyhound bus dilemma in downtown Wheeling. Buses have been stopping in front of the McLure Hotel since December after city officials relocated the stop from its 12th Street location: in front of the Vagabond Kitchen.

Several years ago, Greyhound officials moved their stop away from the intermodal on Main Street. Patrick Viola now operates the Wheeling Greyhound ticket office from his Security Travel business at 1207 Market St. Viola allows passengers to wait inside his office while they are waiting for the bus, but some passengers fear the driver will just keep going if they don’t see someone standing outside. So, they stand out in the elements.

Viola has said he does want to use intermodal because it is nowhere near his shop.

“Please note that my understanding is that even if the city were to offer the space to the existing Greyhound agent at no charge, he would not be interested in relocating the business there,” said Elliott.

“We worked with the city on a viable solution to continue serving the Wheeling community, and they suggested our current stop on Market Street,” said Greyhound spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson. “The city has not offered us the immediate option of moving into the intermodal facility.”

Elliott and Thalman said they believe Greyhound paid $500 per month to rent the intermodal space when the company operated there several years ago.