Garage Plan Questioned

Editor, News-Register:

I continue to read with interest the grand plans that the mayor, his sidekick, and members of city council envision for the new year. This letter is written concerning the proposed parking garage to be located on Market Street across from the old Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building.

I wonder if the City of Wheeling has secretly entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the owner to build a parking garage to provide parking for the proposed 116 residential units? My understanding is “a MOU is not legally binding, but is viewed as a serious legal document by the law … and is a non-binding agreement stating a binding agreement will soon follow.” I think the taxpayers have a right to transparency. Any and all MOUs need to be made public so the people can react to the expectations set forth therein.

The construction of a new parking garage on privately-owned property (a draft MOU for leasing the property for 30 years is now being circulated); based on available per space cost information for an above ground structure, averages $24,000-plus per space. This per space cost can vary based on local construction costs and may range from $17,000 per space to $29,000 per space. Based on the expected need for the new apartments, and additional commercial/retail use, a garage to accommodate a minimum of 300 spaces will cost approximately $7,200,000. If it’s larger, say 500 spaces, the cost would be $12,000,000. Add an additional $1,500,000 if a “skywalk” is needed.

Since we the taxpayers will be funding this construction, several questions come to mind. What if the new apartments don’t catch on, and the majority remain empty? Who will make the monthly payments to whomever to pay for the construction of the garage? What happens if the new owner decides to cut his losses if the building doesn’t fill up? Do we have a new parking garage that remains substantially empty, and are we the taxpayers still on the hook for the next decade or two? Who pays for oversight and maintenance of the garage? Also, you only have to look to the Center Wheeling parking garage to see how the city let it fall into disrepair, and that garage had a guaranteed occupancy based on OVMC. If the Whg. Pitt building owner(s) want to provide their future tenants with parking, then the financial burden should be theirs to bear.

I now understand that a second MOU is being prepared between the City of Wheeling and the owner(s) of the Whg. Pitt building. Should we help them? Absolutely; however our help should not be financial by obligating the taxpayers to subsidize a private for-profit entity in their pursuit to expand their realty business or investment (s). I’m afraid, that in the interest of growing the city, the mayor and council are not fully investigating the pros and cons of these expensive projects and the long term consequences that could burden the city and the taxpayers for years to come. With all of the substandard infrastructure throughout the city, as a taxpayer I believe city council should focus on smaller and more meaningful down-to-earth projects that will show immediate and long-term benefits to our residents. I had someone say that it appears that city council is more interested in the downtown area than they are in the city as a whole.

Hope springs eternal!

J. Jacobs

Wheeling

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