WHEELING, W.Va. — City officials appear to be on the verge of making some major moves that could shape the future of downtown Wheeling for years to come.
At its noon meeting today, city council will hear first reading of three downtown development-related ordinances, including two that directly involve the city-owned property in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets – a project that began about a decade ago under the administration of former Mayor Nick Sparachane.
One measure would authorize the transfer of publicly owned property in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets to the city’s development arm, the Ohio Valley Area Development Corp., for future sale to a developer. The ordinance does not detail the nature of any planned project, but city officials have scheduled an announcement concerning downtown development for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Stone Center at Market Plaza.
Two other ordinances call for the transfer of $134,000 in tax increment financing revenue to the OVADC for “TIF-related economic development,” and execution of option agreements to purchase four downtown buildings: the Vocelli Pizza and Panda Chinese Kitchen buildings at 1127 and 1133 Market St., respectively, and two vacant buildings at 1107 and 1109 Main St., across from the current city-owned property.
The acquisition of the Vocelli and Panda buildings would give the city something it’s sought for years – control over an unbroken tract of property between the Horne’s building to the north and the parking lot behind the Robinson Law Office building to the south.
The prospect of having to design a project around those buildings has long been seen as a barrier to development of the 1100 block property.
Previous attempts to purchase those structures were unsuccessful because suitable relocation opportunities couldn’t be found downtown. It’s unclear what, if any, relocation arrangements were made with the property owners as part of the deal.
This past summer, the city and the Regional Economic Development Partnership spent about $40,000 to have soil samples taken at the 1100 block site and the former Robrecht property south of Wheeling Creek, which the city also owns. At the time, City Manager Robert Herron said developers, whom he did not identify, had expressed “preliminary” interest in the property.
City council began buying up property in the 1100 block in 2007, using tax increment financing revenue. TIF money also was used to demolish the purchased structures – including the G.C. Murphy, Rite Aid, River City Dance Works, Feet First, former Dr. Manny Velez dental office and Howard’s Diamond Center buildings – beginning in 2012.
To date, the city has spent almost $1.8 million to purchase and clear the 1100 block properties.
Also up for introduction before council today is an agreement with the Ohio County Commission to tie into the county’s radio system, which is part of West Virginia’s statewide system. The move would be part of $800,000 worth of planned upgrades to the city’s public safety communication system, which is nearly 20 years old.
Council also will vote on the $132,000 purchase of an ambulance from Penn Care Inc., and a request to designate the former Chucko’s Bar on Wheeling Island as a development/redevelopment site, which would allow Gumby’s to open a new limited video lottery parlor in the building.
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