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Parking Garage, Wheeling-Pitt Lofts To Transform Block of Market Street in Downtown Wheeling

Photo by Eric Ayres The city of Wheeling plans to raze the former Chase Bank building, at left, to build a new parking garage — estimated to be at least six decks tall — to support the private development of the Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts in the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters.

WHEELING — Movement on the $30 million Wheeling-Pitt Lofts project in downtown Wheeling has already started a domino effect of investment expected to continue in the future, transforming a city block that — for the most part — has remained vacant for years.

Earlier this year developer Steve Coon of Coon Restoration and Sealants, along with Dr. John Johnson, owner of the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters building, announced their plans to move forward with a long-awaited redevelopment of the city’s tallest building into a 12-story apartment complex to be known as the Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts.

In order to accommodate this major private investment into the downtown, the city of Wheeling agreed to construct a new parking garage nearby for tenants of the 128-unit apartment complex and for the additional commerce that is expected to follow.

While there is a partially empty lot at the north end of the block, there are four existing buildings between the corner of 11th and Market streets — where the new parking garage will be located — and the Wheeling-Pitt building.

“The current working plan is to place the new parking structure on the footprint of the Chase Bank building and the open lot to the north,” Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott said this week.

Once the former Chase Bank building is razed, this will leave three existing buildings nestled between the new garage and the new apartment complex.

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron explained that the vacant Chase Bank building and neighboring former Chris Miller Furniture building are owned by the Ohio Valley Area Development Corporation. The building to the south of the Chris Miller building is occupied and houses CVS Pharmacy.

“The CVS building is owned by Brian Vossen and will not be changing,” Elliott said.

One last structure in the middle of the two new developments is a sliver of a building that formerly housed a Subway location. Coon noted that this building was being purchased by the developer to help create an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access point to the side of the Wheeling-Pitt Lofts building, which will allow them to maintain the historic facade of the building’s street-facing front.

“The developer is also trying to figure out a way to provide access from the Wheeling-Pitt building to the parking structure,” Herron said, noting that options are being explored in hopes to create a corridor — possibly through the second floors of the neighboring structures — to connect the garage and apartment complex.

Herron said this concept is very preliminary and is being spearheaded by the developer; it is not part of the city’s plans related to the parking garage construction.

The city has hired the Mills Group to provide architectural and engineering services for the design of the new parking structure. The mayor recently announced that there was a “95-percent chance” that the property where the former Chris Miller Furniture building is located would not be needed for the structure at all and that the building could likely be eyed for new occupancy. Elliott had indicated that this building has the most architectural appeal of the vacant structures to the north of the Wheeling-Pitt building and that it is expected to be in perfect position to house new occupants once the neighboring developments are completed.

“The Chris Miller building would be saved for future development,” Elliott said this week, adding that the ideal situation would be to have a retail unit or restaurant on the first floor and residential housing on the second floor.

Coon also noted that the first-floor of the Wheeling-Pitt building was expected to be used for retail development, with apartment units on the floors above. The granite front of the Wheeling-Pitt building covers the original storefront window spaces that faced the street back when the building first opened in 1907 as the Schmulbach Building, once headquarters for a local brewing company of the same name. Coon said they planned to re-open those street-facing storefronts as part of the development.

Herron said while a “significant amount of work” is currently being done on the parking garage project, the full scope of the project has not been finalized yet.

“It looks like it will be a six- to six-and-a-half-level parking structure,” Herron said. “Preliminary design work is being done now, and we’ve also done geotechnical work on the site of the lot, as well. We will come up with a funding strategy once we get a final estimate on the project.”

Wheeling officials have contended that the city’s investment in the new parking structure will not only facilitate the Wheeling-Pitt Lofts venture, but will also open the door to a promising return on the city’s investment by way of future development that will be needed to support so many people living in the heart of downtown.

“We are currently looking at around 300 parking spaces and roughly 9,000 square feet of retail space,” Elliott said of the new garage.

In January, Coon noted that construction of the Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts was to start early this year, and it was expected to take about 15 months to complete.

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