By CASEY JUNKINS
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register
WHEELING, W.Va. — Nearly three years of work at the historic triangular Flatiron Building on Main Street should culminate with sandwiches and coffee on sale from the remodeled first and second floors by October, property owner Kevin Duffin said.
“It’s such an exciting time,” Duffin said of the structure, located to the immediate south of the Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center. “The downtown is really coming back. Things are going nowhere but up.”
The building — which Duffin said opened in the early 1900s and at one time served as the headquarters for the Wheeling Steel & Iron Co. — sat vacant for several years before Duffin’s September 2014 purchase. According to records in the Ohio County Clerk’s Office, Duffin paid $105,000 for the five-story structure at that time.
Duffin declined to comment on how much capital he has invested in the property, but the extensive window upgrades are obvious. Duffin also said the building features new electrical wiring and fire suppression equipment, among many other improvements.
Duffin said he had hoped to have a coffee shop, deli and bakery operation open earlier, but said he had to make sure work met West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office specifications to qualify for certain historic tax credits. He said the “Flatiron Deli”should be open on the building’s lower two floors by October.
“It will be a coffee shop featuring light fare,” Duffin said. “We are going to have an outdoor garden with six to 10 tables, pretty much where the dumpster is.”
Indeed, a dumpster occupies some of the metered parking spaces along the avenue now known as Nailers Way (formerly South Street). The Wheeling Traffic Commission in August approved Duffin’s request to extend outdoor seating into this area of the street.
Duffin said his project fits well amid the numerous ongoing downtown redevelopment projects, particularly the 73-unit Boury Lofts apartment complex nearby at the intersection of 16th and Main streets. This is a sentiment with which Mayor Glenn Elliott agrees.
“The proximity of this project to the Boury Lofts and its residents’ parking area certainly bodes well for its first-floor retail success,” Elliott said. “A few short years ago the future of the Flatiron Building was uncertain, and I commend Mr. Duffin for having a vision and seeing an opportunity to save and repurpose such a magnificent historic structure for contemporary use.”
Last week, Wheeling City Council approved Duffin to receive a $12,700 grant under the Downtown Facade Improvement Program. According to the city, examples of eligible expenses for this funding include, but are not limited to: exterior painting or surface treatment; decorative awnings, window and/or door replacements or modifications; storefront enhancements; streetscaping; outdoor patios and decks; and fees for architectural and engineering work.
“Wheeling has been gifted by its prior generations with an impressive stock of historic architecture, and buildings like the Flatiron are nonrenewable resources,” Elliott said. “Mr. Duffin’s ongoing rehabilitation efforts look to Wheeling’s brighter future while paying homage to its inspiring heritage.”
Duffin said the eatery will occupy the structure’s first two floors, with the second floor featuring an area that can be reserved for use.
“If a pharmaceutical representative wants to have a luncheon, we can do it in that private area,” Duffin said of the second floor.
As for the upper floors, Duffin plans a total of seven “high-end luxury loft apartments.”He said the rental rates will depend on tenant specifications as to how much they want to spend.
“Given that all or close to 100 percent of the market-rate rental units downtown are now under contract, I would expect that Mr. Duffin will find many tenants looking to take advantage of that location for housing,” Elliott said.
As for any further downtown renovation projects, Duffin said he remains focused on the task at hand.
“Once this one is complete, we’ll see what happens,” he said.
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