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Steve Novotney Says, "Ideas Welcomed for Centre Market"

It has been A great pleasure to watch Centre Market grow into what is represents today because it's been a joint effort between the city of Wheeling and the property owners near the two historic market houses.

Such wasn't the case before Centre Market manager Kurt Zende was assigned by City Manager Robert Herron to re-invent the area after a former bar was shuttered by a nuisance designation. The area has long been known as a popular destination for those who enjoy antiques and delicious fish sandwiches, but when the sun would set, the environment changed from pleasant to uncomfortable for the majority of the city's residents.

Police officers would frequently make arrests there for drug trafficking and prostitution, and Centre Market's reputation plummeted to a point many local folks wrote it off as lost, but that has changed tremendously under Zende's watch because he was able to mend relationships and attract new business owners NOT only for the market houses but also for vacant properties along Lane B and Market Street. Today, only one storefront is without a business, and that is only because the new owners of the structure are working to renovate it into something new.

Zende, also an economic development specialist for the city, worked with property owners like Greg and Diane Myers, Frank Calabrese, Theresa Childers, and Chad and Angie Hill to create an atmosphere that is clear of crime and full of possibility. Long-standing businesses like Coleman's Fish Market and Michael's Beef House have been joined by Valley Cheese and Osaka in the south house, and Artsworks Around Town is now neighbored by the Soup Shack, an interior decorating business, Centre Market Bakery, an ice cream parlor and gift shop, and Oliver's Pies.

Several businesses, including the McCardle Law Firm, the Wheeling Flower Shop, and Later Alligator, have been operating just up the road from Centre Market for more than a decade, and then Childers got it started along Market Street with Centre Cup Coffee; the Myers opened and still operate The Market Vines and Casa de Vino; and now there are also several other small businesses intermixed along that stretch and on the other side along Lane B, too.

Right now, for the first time a very long time, every building in the general area of Centre Market is occupied, so Zende now is working on accomplishing the same in the city's downtown district while gathering ideas about how to improve the aesthetics near the market houses. And he is open to any and all suggestions. It's not that he has exhausted all of his ideas, BUT besides a pair of roof replacements and a few other capital improvement projects and the public art projects performed in the past and those planned for the future by officials with the Wheeling Arts Commission, he's simply not sure of the next direction.

"The roofs on both market houses need addressed and so do the public restrooms, and those projects are on the books and coming soon," Zende explained recently. "But the reason I would love to get the public's input is because I know business but, as far as making things more attractive than it already is here, that is something I would love to get input on.

"You just never know who is going to have the next great idea, and that's why I would love to get local residents involved with taking Centre Market to the next level," he continued. "One great example is the painting of our parking meters around the market houses. I seriously doubt I would have ever thought of that idea, but you know what? I hear from people a lot about how much they like those parking meters. It's the first time in my life anyone has ever said anything positive to me about a parking meter."

The city's Arts Commission Chair Erika Donaghy has told me during the weekly "Oglebay Institute Arts Hour" (Friday from 5:30-6:30) that a crosswalk painting project is in the works for Centre Market this spring and summer, and more meters likely will be crafted, too, but what else could be possible to enhance the experience involved with visiting Centre Market?

Make the call with an idea if you have one – 304-234-3878 – and please know that Zende is a person who enjoys suggestions and constructive criticism, too, and that is why the people of Wheeling have the Centre Market they have today.