The city of Wheeling is expected to soon seek bids for the construction of the future Gateway Park in the downtown, said Susan Hogan, a member of Downtown Wheeling Inc.
Plans for the future park have been slightly altered by Hays Landscape Architecture Studio of St. Clairsville, said owner Gabe Hays.
There now also are plans to include sculptures being created by metal artist Jeff Forster of Wheeling.
Photo by Shelley Hanson
Shown is the planned site for the Gateway Park at 11th and Main streets in Wheeling.
"It's not a secret that there's going to be a big elephant in there," Hogan said. "Jeff is creating the body frame with rebar. It's fascinating - he's working on the skin with a crimper to give it a leather effect. The stainless steel will look like real leather."
The elephant sculpture is in remembrance of when circus elephants were paraded across the Wheeling Suspension Bridge many decades ago, she added.
"There will also be 9-foot herons. ... One will be in flight and visible from Main Street," Hogan said, adding the sculptures are being funded by Flip and Gary West.
Hogan conceded the park's development has been under way for a long time. Plans initially were announced in 2010.
"It's been way too long. I have to be patient - the city has a lot going on," Hogan said.
The park site is situated on a lot where the Waterbed Warehouse building once stood at 11th and Main streets. Eleventh Street is the first street off of Main Street in the downtown that motorists traveling south can use to reach Heritage Port and the riverfront. The previous estimated cost of the project was $87,000 to be paid via tax increment financing money.
"It's the same configuration, but the pathway is not as elaborate for financial reasons. It's nice to have art in a landscape," Hays said. "There's still a little gathering area at the bottom for use during festivals. It's a way to clean up a lot in an attractive way."
Meanwhile, Hays said another project also designed by his company will soon be bid out by the city - the Market Plaza renovation project.
"We're going to add a lot more green to it - more trees and outdoor seating to accommodate new users, office workers, students, and people coming to physical rehabilitation there. A restaurant, Subway, also is there," Hays said.
"Hopefully this will spur on more attention to that spot and more business development. ... I hope, personally, that people see what a wonderful place it is. The goal is to improve more of the downtown. It seems like a safe place to live as far as I'm concerned. It might help turn the tide."