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Steve Novotney Says, "Here's What We Do Know"

But what is really going to follow the Health Plan anyway?

No one worked inside the old Stone & Thomas building for a few years, but even now that more than 500 folks walk through the doors each day, only one new eatery – Tito's Sloppy Doggz – has opened.

And although Orrick has expanded, just as Wesbanco Bank has at its headquarters, no new restaurants or any other retail businesses have opened for business. I mean, 7/Eleven does sell pizza now, but … .

Why no other development?

Simply, "things" have changed since those hustle-and-bustle days in downtown Wheeling, and it's much more than population loss.

Lunchtime eating habits have changed, apparently, with fewer people heading out of the office and to the streets in the business district. That's not to say that DiCarlo's, River City, the Bridge Tavern, Tito's. the Vagabond Kitchen, and Subway do not welcome customers at that time, but demand for more has not led to any recent openings.

That's likely because of what has changed at Centre Market during the past few years. For a long time, it was all about Coleman's fish sandwiches at Centre Market, but these days this historic district is chock full of options. While Coleman's continues to have long lines waiting for that signature sandwich, Michael's Beef House, Valley Cheese, Osaka, the Soup Shack, The Market Vines, Centre Cup Coffee, Later Alligator, and Vocelli's Pizza have created THE place to fetch lunch.

But what happens after the Health Plan headquarters opens later this year, and several hundred new folks begin reporting to work on Market Street?

The city of Wheeling owns a pair of buildings directly across Main Street from the development, and Mayor Glenn Elliott remains hopeful a developer will pull the trigger on the investment; a couple of local preservationists are rehabbing the building that once housed Tom's Pizza along Main Street; and D.C. Venture's has made an agreement with a gentleman who will bring his blend of tacos to the property next to Tito's on Main Street.

What else?

At this point it's impossible to know any more than that there will be additional people living and working in the downtown in the very near future. Once the Boury Lofts are completed by the end of April, there will be more than 100 new people residing on the corner of Main and 16th streets, and as soon as all of The Health Plan employees move from Belmont County to their new office building, that number grows by nearly 400 more.

What makes the most sense?

Some kind of eatery, I think, that sells breakfast and lunch and is located inside the Main Street level of the Intermodal Transportation Center.

And yes, even if that means it's a mini-McDonald's that opens at 6 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.

Hey, they sell salad, too.

Categories: Commentary