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Wheeling City Council Eyes Financing for Market Street Parking Garage

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)

WHEELING — Wheeling city officials are moving forward with legislation to put financing in place for the construction of the planned Market Street Parking Garage.

This week, members of Wheeling City Council are scheduled to hear a first reading of an ordinance to finance the cost of the new parking garage at the corner of Market and 11th streets through the issuance of lease revenue bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $19.5 million.

City Manager Robert Herron noted that language in the ordinance for the bonds includes a maximum financing figure over the projected cost of the project, which city officials have said is likely to cost between $16 million and $17 million.

The new parking structure is being built in order to accommodate a private investment by Access Infrastructure to create a new apartment complex inside the city’s tallest building, the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel headquarters on Market Street. That private investment is expected to top $30 million, and city leaders anticipate supporting retail businesses to follow once tenants begin to fill the Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts.

A portion of the new parking structure will be dedicated to tenants of the new loft apartment complex, while additional parking will be available in the six-story structure for visitors to downtown Wheeling. Street-level retail spaces have been incorporated into the design of the city’s new parking structure.

The new ordinance to establish financing for the parking structure also calls for the property at 1104 and 1114 Market Street be transferred from the Ohio Valley Area Development Corporation — the nonprofit entity used by the city to facilitate property deals — to the Wheeling Municipal Building Commission — the newly invigorated panel that is charged with spearheading major construction projects for the city.

A first reading of the new ordinance is expected to take place during Tuesday evening’s council meeting, with a second and final reading on the legislation slated for the Nov. 2 council meeting.

Before construction can start on the new parking structure, the vacant Chase Bank building on Market Street is expected to be torn down and removed. Raze International of Shadyside was awarded a $475,000 contract to demolish the building where the new parking garage will stand. Officials said asbestos removal was being completed at the site, and the building was expected to be razed before the end of the year.

During the most recent city council meeting, one citizen spoke out against the city’s involvement in the construction of a new parking garage for the private development. Wheeling resident Julia Chaplin questioned why Coon Restoration and Sealants — the developer for Dr. John Johnson and Access Infrastructure’s Historic Wheeling-Pitt Lofts project — is not paying for the parking garage needed for their tenants.

“Why did they not include in their proposal to build the facility plans for a garage?” Chaplin asked city leaders. “Basically, we are as a city paying for their garage that will not pay for itself — as the mayor said. We as taxpayers are subsidizing this development company.”

Another ordinance involving revenue bonds for a city owned parking garage is also expected to be introduced on Tuesday. The legislation — outlined in legal language very similar to the Market Street Parking Garage Project ordinance — calls for the issuance of lease revenue bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $3 million for the Centre Wheeling Parking Garage project.

On Friday, Herron explained that planned improvements at the parking structure in Centre Wheeling have been in the works for some time, and when Ohio Valley Medical Center was operating, the Tax Increment Financing District around the property had generated a potential pool of more than $4 million toward the investment. However, after the OVMC property changed hands from Alecto to MPT and eventually to the city of Wheeling, the TIF District ceased generating the revenue that would be needed to pay back the money if used for the parking garage improvements.

The TIF District is still in place at the OVMC site, and if buildings are sold to a private developer, increment funding would be generated again, the city manager indicated.

City leaders continue to look for tenants and potential buyers for the vacant buildings on the OVMC campus. One tenant that had maintained occupancy after the city acquired the property last year recently moved out, Herron noted. This summer, Northwood Health Systems opened its new 28,000 square-foot state-of-the-art behavior health clinic adjacent to the company’s administrative offices at the corner of 19th and Wood streets. Herron reported earlier this month that Northwood officially vacated the space it was using at OVMC after settling into its newly constructed facility.

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