The owners of the structures were not actively marketing the properties, and they also were not protecting the interiors from the evils of Mother Nature. Floors were collapsing on the inside, and bricks were falling on the outside at the time Wheeling’s elected officials voted in favor of purchasing six buildings within the 1100 Block of the downtown district.
After marketing buildings for a few years to anyone who wished to see inside them, city council members and Mayor Andy McKenzie voted in favor of demolishing the former homes of G.C. Murphy, Rite Aid, Juniper, Feet First, River City Dance Works, Velez Dentistry, and Howard’s Diamond Center. The razings began in April 2012, and today the space is lush with green grass and an art project called “Passages: Peggy’s Park.”
The park, funded by the Hess Family Foundation, will provide an illuminated walkway and benches, and will feature large-scale vinyls of photographs of several historic Wheeling structures. Storyboards will tell the tales involving each of the buildings. The park can be disassembled and moved if and when a developer enters into an agreement with the city of Wheeling, but as of today that is not the reality.
The Regional Economic Development Partnership along with the municipality recently funded the taking of soil samples in the area, but McKenzie said the activity was a part of the marketing process.
“We have taken calls from interested parties, and the soil-sample was one of the first questions that have been asked,” the mayor explained. “There’s nothing definite at this time, and that’s why the new park continues to move forward, but the phone has been ringing. People are very interested in several areas of downtown Wheeling.
“That was the goal when we voted in favor of purchasing them, and then voting in favor of the demolition project. Nothing was going to happen in that area with those buildings, and we found that out as we conducted tours through them,” he continued. “There were asbestos issues and roofing issues, but in the end of cost of redeveloping those buildings was just too much to people who toured them, so now that area is wide open for something new.”
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