‘Friendly City’ Looks To Be More Friendly for Walkers
By CASEY JUNKINS
WHEELING — Mayor Glenn Elliott said he and his dog often feel quite lonely while walking on the downtown sidewalks after 5 p.m., as most of those who work in the city leave the area via vehicle by this time.
Elliott said he and fellow city council members want to make the downtown area more friendly for walkers, while attracting new business development to the area.
He knows this is not an easy endeavor, as businesses want to locate where they know they will have customers, while pedestrians want to have places to visit downtown.
“We need to make downtown a place where people want to be,” Elliott said. “We have to make it somewhere you want to come and stay in — not just some place you’re trying to get through.”
Elliott said one of his main goals is to work with the West Virginia Department of Transportation to open Main and Market streets to two-way vehicle traffic.
For many years, traffic on Main Street has only traveled south, while vehicles on Market Street go north.
“That will slow down drivers. Some people drive so fast on those streets that it makes the situation unsafe and uncomfortable for walkers,” Elliott said. “We need to bring people into downtown to spend some time, rather than just have people speeding through here.”
Elliott owns The Professional Building at 1300 Market St., from which he runs his law business. He said when he first purchased the structure in 2013, many believed he was making a poor business decision.
“They thought I was crazy for investing in downtown Wheeling at that time. Now, I have people calling me about looking at buildings here,” he said.
Elliott cited the ongoing construction of The Health Plan headquarters in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets as a tremendous positive for the area.
“It is so exciting to see cranes putting metal beams into place, instead of watching them swing wrecking balls,” he said.
Elliott said those who move into the Boury Lofts apartment tower at the corner of 16th and Main streets will want a pedestrian-friendly environment, in addition to those at the Stone Center Lofts at 1025 Market St. However, he said considerations must also be given for those who already live downtown in places such as Windsor Manor at 1143 Main St. and Montani Towers at 940 Market St.
“It’s not the most comfortable time walking around downtown, particularly at night,” he said. “And Wheeling is a very tough city to live in if you don’t have a car.”
One of Elliott’s main additional goals for downtown is to attract a full-service grocery store for those who live and/or work in the area.
“You can’t have a vibrant downtown without a grocery store. That is something we are working on,” he said.
A 1990 graduate of The Linsly School, Elliott said he fondly remembers downtown Wheeling as a home to the Stone & Thomas department store and numerous other retailers. He said he knows it is unlikely the area will be able to attract such a massive “anchor store” again, but said the potential for smaller retailers is nearly limitless.
“As a government, our job is to create the best possible conditions to encourage private investment,” Elliott acknowledged. “Our success depends on private investors willing to spend their money because they see a potential profit.”