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Development Proposals Sought for The Blue Church and 1400 Block of Market Street in Wheeling

A construction truck is parked in front of the Blue Church in East Wheeling. (File Photo)

Wheeling Heritage and the city of Wheeling are looking to sell the Blue Church in East Wheeling, as well as some other properties on Market Street, to interested developers.

The entities have opened the request for proposal (RFP) process for The Blue Church, located at 1206 Byron St., and four properties located on the 1400 block of Market Street.

Both properties are located within historic districts, which makes them eligible for both state and federal historic tax credits, as well as other financial incentives, explained Alex Panas, communications manager for Wheeling Heritage.

Proposals will be accepted through Oct. 29, with the goal of selecting developers by January.

“We recognize that while these buildings have a lot of historic value, funding projects of this scale can be intimidating to some developers,” said Betsy Sweeny, director of heritage programming for Wheeling Heritage. “With a 20% federal and 25% state historic tax credit, larger projects such as these can become a lot more manageable.”

Built in 1837, The Blue Church is one of the few pre-Civil war buildings remaining in Wheeling and one of the oldest in the community. Wheeling Heritage acquired The Blue Church in 2013 and has made significant improvements to the building, including a new roof, gutters and masonry repairs. The organization has been marketing the former church as an ideal venue to engage the community.

The city purchased properties at 1437, 1433, 1429 and 1426 Market Street in 2015 and 2016. The buildings’ distinct architectural styles and historic fabric, as well as their prime location in the downtown historic district, make them desirable candidates for redevelopment.

In 2019, the city was prepared to transfer the properties to an interested developer, but the pandemic brought the deal to a halt, Panas said.

Wheeling officials are optimistic the right developer is out there to take on the project.

“We need to look at these buildings as non-renewable resources and think expansively in terms of adaptive reuse projects to save them,” said Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. “The city stands ready to work with any developer willing to look past the current condition of these buildings and see them for their full redevelopment potential.”

Wheeling Heritage also has received funding to continue its preservation and rehabilitation work in the city. The group has been awarded a $750,000 Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grant by the National Park Service to support the preservation of Wheeling’s historic buildings. The organization will use the funds to establish a Historic Revitalization Subgrant Program that will provide funding for rehabilitation and restoration projects at contributing structures in Wheeling’s 12 historic districts.

Wheeling Heritage is slated to begin accepting applications in fall 2022 and intends to award all of the funds within 36 months from the start of the program.

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