WHEELING - City officials are telling developers to name their price as they look to sell several old buildings and vacant lots, potentially turning drains on Wheeling's resources into sources of revenue.
Among the properties available, possibly for as little as $1, are the former Gene Long Community Center on Wheeling Island, the old Tom's Pizza building on Main Street downtown and the lot where the former Jefferson School - known more recently as the Imperial Pools building - once stood at 14th and McColloch streets in East Wheeling.
"These are probably the most redevelopable properties that the city has no need for," said Tom Connelly, assistant director of the city's Economic and Community Development Department.
Photos by Ian Hicks
These buildings along 16th Street in Wheeling are among several properties city officials soon hope
A groundhog feasts on vegetation behind one of the city’s vacant buildings on 16th Street.
It will take more than just scooping up the loose change between your couch cushions to purchase one of these properties, however, as city leaders are looking for those with both the resources and the desire to return them to productive use. Connelly said the city Historic Landmarks Commission will review all proposals before making a recommendation to City Council, which would then sell the property through its development arm, the Ohio Valley Area Development Corp., to the approved applicant.
Many of the properties on the list have been given to the city over the years, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for maintenance and, sometimes, demolition. One example is the Imperial Pools building, which the city spent almost $50,000 earlier this year to tear down after unsuccessfully attempting to force previous owners to deal with the decaying structure.
Also available is the old Keg und Kraut property at 16th and Wood streets, just yards away from where the city plans to build a $3 million sports field and recreational facility. The former German restaurant served its last beer and bratwurst in 2007, and most recently was employed as a training facility for city firefighters due to its unusual floor plan.
Now, the city hopes to sell it and three neighboring buildings - including two to the west on 16th Street and one to the north on Wood that form an "L" along that corner. With a few adjacent vacant lots also available, Connelly said that area could be suitable for a larger-scale project.
"If someone wants to propose something for that entire corner, we could do that," he said, noting the city also would consider proposals for individual lots on the corner.
The request for proposals sets a deadline of May 30 so the city Historic Landmarks Commission can review any submissions at its June meeting, but Connelly said that dzate could be extended if the city fails to receive suitable proposals.
There is no minimum asking price for any of the properties, and Connelly said the city would rather sell at a lower price to someone with a solid plan. The commission will evaluate the overall quality of proposals based on criteria such as experience and qualifications, demonstration of a financial ability to see the project through, the anticipated impact on the city and whether the plan conforms with the city's zoning code and fits the historical character of the surrounding neighborhood.
Applicants must submit a plan to secure any buildings on the properties within 6 months, and provide within a year a full plan to rehabilitate the property in five years or less. The city reserves the right to repossess the properties if any of those terms are not met.
"We want to see something done. We don't want to just transfer it without the confidence that something will occur in a reasonable time frame," Connelly said.
Also for sale in addition to the Gene Long, Tom's Pizza, Imperial Pools and Keg und Kraut properties are the former East Wheeling police precinct building at 126 15th St. and vacant lots at 134 14th St. and 115 and 115 1/2 15th St.
Connelly said there will be a walkthrough of the properties with buildings on them for applicants on May 7. More information is available at www.wheelingwv.gov.