WHEELING - The long dilapidated and controversial Rogers Hotel may soon see its end, as Wheeling city officials are fed up with the state of the eight-story structure along 14th Street between Market and Chapline streets.
"The city is working to ensure that this building is razed or repaired," said Tom Connelly, who serves as assistant director of the Wheeling Economic and Community Development Department. "To this point, the owner is not making adequate progress."
Connelly said the structure's owner - Mark Jaber of Akron, Ohio - appeared Friday before the Wheeling Building Code Board of Appeals, the same board he spoke with earlier this year. During the previous meeting, Jaber told board members he was planning a three-phase project to refurbish the hotel to the point that he could use the first floor as a restaurant and lounge at a cost of $402,000. At the time, board members agreed to give Jaber a chance to continue his considerable improvement project.
Photo by Casey Junkins
Wheeling officials are fed up with the state of the Rogers Hotel along 14th Street between Market and Chapline streets.
However, board members and city building code officials were not pleased with Jaber's progress when he met with them Friday. Connelly said the matter will now head to municipal court, with City Solicitor Rosemary Humway-Warmuth directing the effort to enforce the raze or repair order.
Tom Wilson, Wheeling code enforcement officer, said Jaber is not meeting the city's requirements for the Rogers Hotel.
"When he left the meeting last time, he was supposed to do certain things," Wilson said of Jaber. "For example, he said he would have the roof done. He tore off the roof, but now he has 30 to 40 garbage bags of roofing material just sitting up there."
Wilson said this should not pose an immediate hazard to anyone because the structure does have a concrete base roof that provides some protection against water infiltration.
"Everyone knows this building has been vacant for about 20 years or so. (Jaber) doesn't give us the impression he has the ability to get it fixed," Wilson said.
Last fall, the building caught code enforcement officers' attention when falling bricks narrowly missed nearby vehicles on a number of occasions. Recently, Jaber installed new first floor windows on the front of the building, but this seems a bit puzzling to Wilson.
"Why is he worried about the windows? The building needs a new roof, new wiring and it needs cleaned out," Wilson said, while listing several other steps the city wanted Jaber to take.
"We try as hard as we can to work with building owners who are trying to fix their buildings," Wilson said. "He is working with us, but at a very minimal level."
Wilson said the Friday action will allow the city to get Jaber into municipal court. If the court finds Jaber liable, Wilson said the court can levy fines against him in hopes of moving the project along.
Jaber initially bought the property for $3,000 in 2005 with plans to develop it into a "full blown casino." In early 2010, a company named "Purple Properties LLC" of Ritchie County, W.Va., agreed to purchase the Rogers for just $20, plus delinquent taxes. However, Jaber eventually paid the taxes to retain ownership.
Although city officials originally condemned the hotel in 1994, no action has been taken to demolish the structure. Inside the hotel, one can see holes in some of the ceilings, along with evidence of birds because many windows were left open for several years.
Jaber eventually closed the windows in an effort to comply with directions from the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. He also allowed building, fire and health inspectors to walk through the former hotel. Fire inspectors said if Jaber intends to use the building, he eventually would need to install a sprinkler system, a fire alarm system and construct an additional fire exit.
City resident Larry Tighe filed a formal complaint about the building in January 2009, citing the possibility of asbestos and other health hazards. Health department sanitarians, however, at the time said the structure posed no public health threat.
Jaber could not be reached for comment Friday.