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City of Wheeling buys three downtown buildings

Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo by Ian Hicks The city of Wheeling on Thursday closed on the purchase of three buildings downtown, at 1425, 1429 and 1433 Market St.
Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register photo by Ian Hicks
The city of Wheeling on Thursday closed on the purchase of three buildings downtown, at 1425, 1429 and 1433 Market St.

WHEELING, W.Va. — Three buildings in the 1400 block of Market Street now belong to the city of Wheeling, which hopes to find someone who will make them suitable for new development.

The properties are the Sportsman’s Club at 1425 Market St., the former Erica’s Grill & Lounge at 1429 Market St. and the old O’Reilly’s Irish Pub at 1433 Market St. The city closed on the deals Thursday afternoon, with a total purchase price of $155,000, according to City Manager Robert Herron.

City council on June 16 approved the use of tax increment financing revenue in that amount for “TIF-related economic development,” but at that time, Herron said he could not identify the property the city was targeting because negotiations were ongoing.

The buildings have been on the market for quite a while, and two of them have been sitting vacant. Only one was home to an active business, the Sportsman’s Club, but Herron said the city required the bar to close immediately as a condition of the purchase.

At least two of the buildings date back to about 1900, and while demolition isn’t out of the question, city leaders would rather see the structures returned to productive use, according to Herron.

“The city did not buy these to tear them down,” he said.

According to Herron, city officials first toured the buildings about a year ago, but negotiations fell through. Talks began again about three or four months ago, and Herron said with West Virginia Northern Community College’s recent investment that transformed the nearby corner of 16th and Market streets, it was an opportunity the city didn’t want to pass up.

“That area’s in pretty rough shape, and it needs to be addressed,” Herron said.

In March, a section of brick fell from the rear of the Sportsman’s Club to the alley below. Despite this, Herron said the buildings are basically intact, although they need plenty of work.

“We’ve had interest in one of them already,” he said. “I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s been anything solid, but there’s been some interest.”

Herron said the city would prefer commercial development at least on the ground floors of the buildings, but would be open to housing on the upper levels.

Individual purchase prices for the buildings were $70,000 for the Sportsman’s Club; $50,000 for O’Reilly’s, last owned by UB Financial Services Inc. of Middlebourne; and $35,000 for Erica’s Grill & Lounge, last owned by Lazy Shadow LLC of Wheeling. The funds came from the city’s $3.1 million TIF bond sale in 2011.

Other projects completed through the TIF bond sale include demolition of buildings in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets, contributing to the Regional Economic Development Partnership’s project at the Stone Center to accommodate Wheeling Jesuit University’s physical therapy program, upgrades to the Capitol Theatre and the Market Plaza renovation.

TIF allows local governments to borrow money for development projects in a defined district, on the promise they will repay the debt with the proceeds from future gains in property tax revenue. Areas eligible for the use of TIF funds include the Capitol Theatre and the area between Water Street and the west side of Market Street from 10th Street south to Wheeling Creek.

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