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City Council Fast-Tracks Chase Bank Demolition

WHEELING — Officials in the city of Wheeling are working to keep progress on the new 11th Street parking garage project in sync with Access Infrastructure’s work to develop the nearby Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts on Market Street.

In order to keep in pace with plans that include major construction phases next year, city officials are cutting through red tape and expediting the demolition of the former Chase Bank building at 1114 Market Street. On Tuesday night — following the recommendation of Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron — members of council moved to hold a second reading on new legislation introduced during the meeting to demolish the building and make room for the new six-story parking structure that will provide needed parking for the Wheeling-Pitt Lofts.

“Asbestos abatement will take about 28 days, but it does require a 10-day advanced notice to the West Virginia DEP (Department of Environmental Protection),” Herron noted.

“As a result of this notice, the asbestos abatement and ultimately the demolition — it’s about a 90-100 day project.”

Typically, city council would hold a second and final reading — followed by a vote on the matter — during the next regularly scheduled meeting after new legislation is introduced. That would have kept the contractor from moving forward with any of the required notices until after the next council meeting on Oct. 5.

Raze International of Shadyside was the low bidder for the Chase Bank demolition project and was awarded a $475,000 contract Tuesday for the asbestos abatement and demolition work. Herron noted that a number of bids were received for this project, and all of the bids came in under the engineer’s estimate of $770,000.

On Tuesday, Herron mentioned that the overall cost of the construction of the new parking structure could be between $16 million to $17 million. The commitment by the developer to transform the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building into a 12-story downtown apartment complex is expected to be about $30 million in private investment, which is in turn hoped to spur additional, spin-off developments to support the increased residential presence downtown.

“With the Historic Wheeling-Pitt lofts project moving forward, the demolition of the Chase Bank building is the next critical step towards the transformation of the entire block of Market Street between 11th and 12th streets,” Mayor Glenn Elliott said. “The new facility built on this site will not only provide adequate parking capacity to make the Wheeling-Pitt Lofts project viable, but it will also create nearly 150 linear feet of new retail frontage on Market Street that is ripe for development.”

Herron said the city is currently working on financing plans and a bond ordinance that will be presented to city council next month for the new parking garage’s construction. Herron said the city’s commitment to the parking structure calls for the project to go out to bid in October, followed by a bid opening in November and a bond closing by the end of the year, with construction beginning in January.

“It’s a one-year construction process that will coincide with the finishing up of renovations to the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building into loft apartments,” Herron said. “So we are working hand-in-hand with the developer to stay on schedule with that project.”

Councilman Jerry Sklavounakis asked the city manager to explain the assurances the city will have in place regarding Access Infrastructure’s commitment to completing the loft apartment project.

“The worst-case scenario would be that we move forward with this project and the development doesn’t happen,” Sklavounakis said.

Herron explained that required documentation for the bond sale for parking structure’s construction funding — which is expected to be in the $16 million to $17 million range — will provide the city and the lenders with these assurances. The developer will need to share supporting paperwork related to plans for their project, as well, Herron explained.

“In order to sell the bonds for this project, bond buyers are going to request certain pieces of information,” Herron said. “That information is currently being assembled in order to market these bonds, and that will include proof of financing, it could be performance bonds and other items the city’s lawyers are exploring. There will be safeguards when the bonds are marketed.”

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