Section of 18th Street in Wheeling Closes for Future Development
WHEELING — A section of 18th Street in Downtown Wheeling is no longer open to vehicular traffic due to plans to improve the area by the city and West Virginia Northern Community College.
One block of the street between Chapline and Market Streets closed Friday after City Council voted in May to abandon the section, giving ownership to WVNCC.
Now, plans for the site and the lot adjacent to it include improving Northern’s campus with additional parking and greenspace as well as a proposed creekside park along Big Wheeling Creek.
The park is a public-private partnership between the city and WVNCC to improve pedestrian accessibility around the college campus and connect a portion of the creek to Downtown Wheeling, Mayor Glenn Elliott said.
In the short term, 18th Street will be used as temporary parking for staff and students for the fall semester starting Aug. 26, said David Barnhardt, spokesman for Northern.
WVNCC purchased the property south of the street, which previously housed the Electrical Contractors Supply Co. building and a Greyhound bus station, in 2014. During the past year, city officials discussed using the area with Northern in a shared arrangement to provide pedestrian access to Wheeling Creek, Mayor Glenn Elliott said.
Northern administrators presented their plans to the city at a May 7 Development Committee meeting, in which they discussed developing a creekside park in conjunction with the city.
The lane abandonment served as the city’s sole up-front contribution to the park project, Elliott said, as the land underlying 18th Street will become WVNCC property.
In return, the college plans to design the area to extend its campus southward toward the creek, utilizing the space where 18th Street is now for parking and the adjacent lot for greenspace, Elliott said. The city will maintain a pedestrian right of way through the campus to the creek.
“The only way to achieve this goal was to close down the section of 18th Street at issue here,” Elliott said. “We had city staff reach out to all the various stakeholders, including all nearby property owners, and received very minimal objections … and we discussed this proposal in considerable detail in two public meetings.”
Next, Northern will work in 2020 to reconfigure the area’s parking and develop the south lot into greenspace, Elliott said. The work will allow students to get from their existing parking lot to campus without having to cross the “pedestrian unfriendly” intersection at 18th and Chapline, according to the city.
As far as paying for further development, Wheeling and WVNCC have agreed to work together in the future to secure funding for additional site enhancements, Elliott said. Those could include terracing, a fountain or sculpture, a boat dock and appropriate lighting, he said.
“The basic idea here is to allow WVNCC to move forward with its current parking enhancements now in such a way so as to prepare this site for a future Creekside park for use by residents, visitors and students and faculty,” Elliott said. “That said, even the short-term improvements to the site will ensure that the ECS property is far more aesthetically pleasing that it is today.”