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Wheeling Planning Commission Grants Approvals for New Downtown Parking Structure

This artist’s conceptual drawing by the Mills Group shows the planned design of the city of Wheeling’s new parking garage slated to be constructed at the corner of 11th and Market streets downtown. (Image Provided)

The city of Wheeling’s plans to construct a new parking structure at the corner of 11th and Market streets is moving forward full steam, as the Wheeling Planning Commission granted a special use permit and site plan approval Monday night.

The new parking garage is needed to support the planned $30 million private redevelopment of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters by property owner Dr. John Johnson’s Access Infrastructure and developer Steve Coon of Coon Restoration into the Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts, a 128-unit apartment complex in the heart of downtown. In order to facilitate this major investment, the city is expected to invest around $14 million into the new parking structure, which is intended to provide parking for Wheeling-Pitt Loft tenants and for other downtown businesses and destinations.

Designs also call for approximately 10,000 square feet of new retail space on the ground level. That space will be marketed by the city next year with hopes that units will be occupied not long after the structure’s anticipated completion date of December 2022.

Members of the Wheeling Planning Commission on Monday night reviewed plans as presented by architect Victor Greco of the Mills Group, which the city hired to complete the design work on the new parking garage. Planning Commission members inquired about lighting, ingress and egress, access points and other specifics in the plan before unanimously approving the required site plan and request for special use permit.

Presently, there are four buildings located between 11th Street — where the entrance of the parking garage will be located — and the Wheeling-Pitt building. The northernmost structure — the former Chase Bank building — is vacant and is expected to be razed in the near future. The parking structure is expected to be built on the footprint of the vacant lot along 11th Street and the site where the Chase Bank now sits.

Next to the former bank building is the McFadden Building, which formerly housed Chris Miller Furniture. This building is expected to have direct access to the new parking garage, and plans are in the works to develop 14 new apartment units there in addition to ground-level commercial spaces.

However, the next building to the south — which is presently occupied by CVS Pharmacy — is the only property in the affected stretch of that block that is not owned by the city or the Wheeling-Pitt Lofts developer, which also owns the McFadden Building and the small building which most recently housed a Subway restaurant directly to the north of the Wheeling-Pitt building.

The original hope was that an access tunnel could be constructed from the new garage, through unoccupied upper levels of the existing buildings and directly into Wheeling-Pitt Lofts. However, Greco said several factors led to this idea falling by the wayside, with complications arising from a drastic change in elevation at the former Subway building, security measures considered for the pharmacy, the fact that there was separate ownership of the CVS building and other issues.

“We studied that heavily,” Greco said, noting that Access Infrastructure is moving forward without a direct-access tunnel. “They don’t mind tenants walking back on the street and into the parking garage. It’s fairly quick.”

Plans for the new garage are being orchestrated with the city, the Wheeling-Pitt Lofts developers and the state of West Virginia, which is expected to move forward with a $30 million project of its own within the next year — the long-awaited Wheeling Downtown Streetscape Project. The structure will be approximately six parking levels high with 250 spaces, four spaces for charging electric vehicles and a total of eight ADA accessible spaces.

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