Wheeling must proceed with redevelopment

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Wednesday’s announcement The Health Plan will construct a new headquarters building in Wheeling settles the future of the city’s downtown business district, or at least a large portion of it.

Now, instead of attempting to devise a workable strategy for redevelopment of the central business district, city officials – and local business people – can concentrate on infrastructure for the health insurance company. That may involve challenges, but it also brings enormous opportunities.

A decade ago, municipal officials had several scenarios to consider for redevelopment of what once was a thriving retail center. Establishment in 2002 of the Orrick, Herrington &?Sutcliffe Global Operations Center on Main Street just south of Wheeling Creek seemed to point toward attracting more back-office and similar operations.

That idea was reinforced in 2007, when the Williams Lea Group established offices in the Stone Center. That facility has enjoyed steady growth.

Also that year, city officials agreed to buy property in the 1100 block of Main and Market streets. Little by little since then, buildings have been purchased and demolished.

That left a large, empty lot, the future of which was uncertain. Now it is known The Health Plan will be constructing its new headquarters there.

That raises a variety of questions. About 300 people are expected to work at the building. Where will they park their vehicles? Where will they find meals if they choose to leave the facility? What other opportunities will be created?

City officials already have taken one important step, with improvements to the old Market Plaza adjacent to the Stone Center and within a few steps of where The Health Plan building is to be constructed. The plaza will provide a pleasant setting for office workers to eat lunches on nice days or simply to relax for a few minutes.

But, as noted above, there are more questions to be answered and more solutions to be found to ensure adequate infrastructure of all sorts is in place, both for existing and soon-to-be-built offices and those Wheeling needs to attract in the future. Ensuring everything is in place to make the downtown business district attractive for that type of redevelopment should be among municipal officials’ top priorities.

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