Economic Specialist Touts Success of Wheeling’s Centre Market as Example for Steubenville

STEUBENVILLE — A Wheeling economic development specialist told members of Steubenville City Council he likes their idea of turning the old city building into a market house.

Kurt Zende, architect of Wheeling’s highly successful Centre Market, said during council’s Tuesday meeting the keys to making something similar work in Steubenville are to choose an anchor that people will want to come to, cluster similar businesses and make sure tenants are adequately monetized.

“Make it a destination and an area they’re coming to, not just a restaurant,” said Zende, a Steubenville native, told council during an economic development committee meeting. “And anything you can do to make it look safe. The fort is beautiful, the new city building is beautiful.”

Zende said there were a lot of empty storefronts in the Centre Market area when Wheeling started. He said he made it a point to help fill outlying spaces as well as in-market ones.

“I’d have been an idiot not to help all the businesses around us,” he said. “They generate foot traffic.”

Zende figures around 600,000 people a year go through the market area, pointing out Wheeling was fortunate to have Coleman’s Fish Market already located in the market for more than a century.

“I would say it needs to be something like that for you, create a destination that people will come to. I think that is the anchor that drives everything else.”

Zende said Wheeling owns Centre Market, which operates as a non-profit. As part of the lease agreement, the city picks up the tab for lights, heat and air conditioning. He urged council to “give incentives you can afford” to bring tenants in, and not to scrimp on marketing, including using social media.

“There’s a lot of work to do before we get to that point,” said 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna, pointing out the city is still waiting for an asbestos abatement report. “But there has been interest.”

Zende said they haven’t always picked the right vendors to bring in, but that the city has found a successful formula.

“There’s really no magic to it,” he said. “Fortunately, we have good foot traffic. It took a while to get where we are. We made mistakes, people weren’t always selling the right things.”

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