If you haven't been through downtown Wheeling in the past week, a sizeable hole now exists in the heart of the city's former retail district, as half the G.C. Murphy building is gone. As our headline in Sunday's newspaper read, city leaders soon will have some "wide open spaces" to fill with potential new development.
Last week, workers demolishing the 1100 block of Main and Market streets ripped down the Main Street side of the Murphy's building. In the 1100 block, all that remains is the Market Street side of the Murphy's structure and the former Feet First building. Once those buildings are gone, workers will fill in and grade the area.
City Manager Robert Herron said he expects the filling and grading to be done soon. That's why it's imperative now that city officials begin discussions on the block's future.
Herron did say the city would be seeking input from area business owners about what to do with the 1100 block. We also urge Herron, Mayor Andy McKenzie and all members of council to get the public involved in the process. Along with other demolitions that have taken place in recent years - the Reichart's building and Waterbed Warehouse on Main Street are two notable sites - the city has the opportunity to reimagine a large section of its downtown. That possibility requires more than just the ideas of city officials; there are many talented individuals in our community who can - and will- add to the conversation. And there are enough good examples of towns that have gone through this process to provide city leaders with a good template.
Downtown has needed a new direction for some time. As the saying goes, there's no time like the present to get started.