WHEELING - A man offered Wheeling City Council the chance to sell to him all the properties in the planned East Wheeling sports field area Monday, saying his investment would lead to a different development path.
Kenneth Peralta resides with mayoral candidate Jerome Poynton at 136 15th St., one of the homes set for demolition. He said he would like the opportunity to invest in an effort to "make much better use of the area and create a "horticultural paradise."
The city already has spent about $1.2 million toward the $2.5 million sports field project, via property acquisition and various services. The properties -- including the homes taken through eminent domain in January -- cost the city about $670,000, while demolition is set to cost $345,650 and contracting is estimated at $188,500.
Kenneth Peralta stands on the East Wheeling block where he lives and that hopes to save from demolition.
Photo by Zach Macormac
Peralta said he heard great support from the community" regarding an alternate type of redevelopment in the block, citing discussion last week at council candidate forums on Wheeling Island and in South Wheeling.
The idea Peralta said he seeks to fund is Poynton's plan to make a "town square," where many of the structures in the block's perimeter would be restored while the interior would include a multi-faceted community park surrounding a small restaurant -- built from a restored structure -- in the direct center. The park would serve as a dining garden and "self-sustaining" marketplace, they said.
"Do we want want to regenerate the environment or do we want to put in Astroturf?" Peralta asked. "We could do something here that is very forward thinking."
He told council he could easily purchase all the properties and "close the sale in three weeks," provided city officials are ready to negotiate. If successful, he said he would seek investment partners as development moves forward.
Meanwhile, City Manager Robert Herron provided a tentative time line for the sports field project. He said the final design by contractor Alpha Architects and Engineers of Morgantown should be complete in late May, while demolition by Edgco Inc. of Lansing could take five months.
Herron added demolition will start in the next few weeks, pending Edgco providing bonds and insurance. He also said the construction bidding process could start in late June or early July with the contract to be awarded in August.
Peralta said he has provided financial backing for several companies and projects, including two independent films: the 2007 documentary "Jack Smith and the Destruction of Atlantis" and an upcoming drama, "That's Beautiful Frank." The latter of the two he is producing with Poynton. Both works are listed on several popular film websites, including the Internet Movie Database, Fandango and Blockbuster.
Peralta is also listed with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation as a consultant to the Green Wheeling Initiative and to a $55,000 grant provided to the West Virginia Northern Community College Foundation "to promote a local foods economy."
Herron also announced Dore and Associates of Pittsburgh will "mobilize" for demolition of the 1100 block of Main and Market streets next week. Razing the four city-owned structures in that area will cost $693,000, approved by council in February.
Council approved paying $4.73 million for a new membrane filtration system from Siemens Industry of Massachusetts. It is part of a total $36 million overhaul of the water treatment plant that will result in a customer rate hike of as much as 80 percent, pending investigation and judgment by the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
Council will meet next at 1 p.m. April 17 in the cafeteria of Wheeling Central Catholic High School, 14th and Eoff streets. Anyone wishing to be heard must sign up by 12:45 p.m. in the cafeteria.