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Positive Steps Being Taken in Wheeling

“Any way you look at it, Wheeling is — right now — a city being rebuilt before our very eyes.”

Those words from Mayor Glenn Elliott during Tuesday’s State of the City address may cause some of you to chortle, or simply shake your head in disbelief.

But the fact is … he’s right.

For decades, Wheeling could appropriately have been called the “Neglected City,” as the state of West Virginia failed to do its part to keep up the state-owned streets in the downtown or even to keep Interstate 70 in some level of acceptable condition.

That’s changed, though, as we’re seeing with the $215 million I-70 Bridges Project, and the planned $35 million downtown streetscape project that will provide a total makeover of the streets and sidewalks on Main and Market streets, along with portions of Eoff and Chapline streets.

The state also is working on a $15 million rehabilitation plan for the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, which has been closed to all traffic for nearly two years. The city is doing its part, as well. If you’ve been downtown lately you’ve been forced to maneuver around the orange barrels as crews work to replace water and sewer lines. In the past five years, city taxpayers have invested more than $40 million into underground infrastructure.

A new police station is on the horizon, along with a new fire station. That’s a $13 million investment.

And then there’s a planned parking garage at 11th and Market streets to service the apartments at the future Wheeling-Pitt Lofts.

In total, all of these investments into Wheeling — including millions is street resurfacing — come in at about $300 million.

But it’s not the public investment that the mayor appropriately sees as the catalyst for things turning around. Private investors are stepping forward, as well.

Consider the planned Wheeling-Pitt Lofts. Coon Restoration has undertaken a $30 million renovation of downtown’s tallest structure for new housing units. Roxby Development has undertaken several major projects in Wheeling — the latest being a planned renovation of the McLure Hotel.

The Carl family has added new life downtown with the purchase and renovation of the Bridge Tavern, including a neon guitar at the gateway to the central business district.

There’s more — the Fort Henry Club is being rehabilitated by McKinley & Associates; Ohio Valley Community Federal Credit Union is building a new bank on Chapline Street; the former Posin’s building on Market Street is being redone by the Hamilton family; and other businesses have taken advantage of the city’s facade improvement program to update buildings.

The table is set for a major makeover of Wheeling. The question now is simple: can we take advantage of this opportunity?

Let us hope that jobs — good-paying, family raising jobs that will allow the city to grow, and allow youngsters to build their future here — follow.

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