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Steve Novotney Says, "Part 1 - Hopes for 2017"

It's a key year in Wheeling and I am certain the city's mayor and council members know it.

"Key." "Big." "Huge." "Future factoring." Call it what you will, but Mayor Glenn Elliott knew something was up when creating three of the four ad-hoc committees he did soon after winning in May. One group of volunteer members have been concentrating for nearly six months on retention of residents and recruiting new ones; another has been staring straight at the housing issue that has existed here in the Friendly City for decades; and the third is a gathering that's studied how this city can best benefit from the development of a "cracker" plant across the Ohio River in Belmont County.

This week I will offer this blog and two more about what I hope to witness in the Wheeling area during this new year.

City-Owned Now

Four buildings along Market Street, including the "nudie book store," and two more on Main Street currently are owned by the city of Wheeling and although officials have been quite busy the past few months as far as showing the properties to prospective developers there still is no plan in place. The Main Street buildings are situated across the roadway from the Health Plan development so potential does exist, but the structures along Market Street are at risk because previous owners played the "sit-and-rot" game with the municipality. These parcels do have history, though, that dates back to a prosperous downtown Wheeling with a number of taverns, hotels, and billiard rooms on the books. Organized crime, too, took place there since "Big Bill" Lias once owned and operated Zeller's Steak House inside one of them.

All six properties require building code and fire suppression updates and unless a majority of the West Virginia Legislature approves an increase to the state's historical tax credit to 25 percent the decay could continue. Elliott does plan to push during the upcoming regular session, though, and if he and others are successful then we could see new life along the dreariest stretch of the downtown district.

Blight in the Middle

If you live and/or work in Wheeling you have seen them and by now you are likely used to them.

But there they are, decaying buildings in the middle of business districts and neighborhoods throughout this Friendly City. The former TCI building in Elm Grove rests right on a heavily traveled corner and is simply ugly; there's a duplex on 14th Street that is boarded up and has a collapsed roof; one residential; property along Edgwood Street in Woodsdale is vacant, owned by an out-of-towner, and is decreasing property values; and, of course, the embarrassing building on National Road near Perkins, the former Hallmark store, is stared at by thousands of motorists each day.

There has been a concentration on the "gateways" into the city the past few years and efforts have been made to pretty-up Main Street when Interstate 70 empties into the downtown, but impressions are made no matter where a newcomer travels within the municipality. That is why I have hopes city officials will continue aggressively addressing their property owners so preservation or removal can be realized in 2017.

Even a Better Grand Vue?

The expansion of Marshall County's Grand Vue Park has been impressive during the nine year's Craig White has served as the facility's general manager and there is much more listed in the Board's master plan. High on the wish list were the ziplines courses, aerial park, hiking and biking trails, disc golf, and additional lodging, and White has led his staff with making all the above the park's new reality.

In addition, half of Grand Vue's Par 3 golf course is now utilized for camping, Mason Dixon BBQ now consumes the former golf shop, and an overlook offers visitors views of the city of Moundsville, including the massive West Virginia Pen.

So what could be an even bigger addition than the four treetop villas opened in October 2016?

A lodge is on that list, too, and based on White's successful record I'm betting on progress toward such a construction project instead of the opposite.

Landfill Land

I pose this question without asking City Manager Bob Herron: Is the acreage once utilized for the North Park Landfill ready for development yet?

There was much talk about this large parcel a few years ago and community members offered a plethora of ideas concerning recreational reuse. Hiking trails, Frisbee golf, neighborhood dog park, a picnic area with shelters, and a paintball course are a few of what residents suggested and following the public event a conceptual plan was completed and unveiled.

But that was nearly five years ago now and the conversation since has fallen silent although many people now are searching for land to construct new homes, so …

Categories: Commentary