Wheeling eyes Centre Market design plans for historic district

WHEELING – A plan two years in the making that would require property owners in the Centre Market area to conform to certain historic design guidelines when renovating their buildings has reached its final stop – Wheeling City Council.

An ordinance designating all properties with Market Street addresses between 20th and 23rd streets – about 60 parcels, in total – as a historic district is to be introduced to council during its meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the first floor of the City-County Building. Council would vote on the matter at its next meeting Aug. 5.

With the historic district designation comes a set of design guidelines approved by the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission intended to preserve the character of the neighborhood. The design guidelines, based on U.S. Department of the Interior standards, govern a variety of features from windows to paint color.

If council approves design review, all property owners within the district would have to apply for a certificate of appropriateness before undertaking any exterior renovation visible from the street. Existing non-conforming features would be grandfathered.

Notable buildings within the proposed district include St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, the former First Christian Church – now the Living Word Church, the Bennett Square building, Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre and the two city-owned Centre Market houses.

According to city code, council may adopt design review unless 50 percent of the ownership interest within the proposed district objects. Only two property owners, Jack McArdle and Susan Haddad, voiced objections during a May 1 public hearing before the Historic Landmarks Commission, and Tom Connelly, assistant director of Wheeling’s Economic and Community Development Department, said he’s received no additional comments since the meeting.

Wheeling has only adopted design review once before.

Following some contentious debate, in 2011 City Council designated a stretch of eight Victorian-style houses in the 2300 block of Chapline Street as a historic district.