Projects progressing in Wheeling

WHEELING — The city is making progress on its two largest projects and aims to finish new rounds of planning within about three weeks.

After considering new properties for both a parking garage to supplement the rehabilitation of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Building as well as a public safety building, the city is working to finalize how much the projects will cost, City Manager Robert Herron said.

“Both projects are still active,” Herron said. “We’re in the process of fine tuning cost estimates and configurations of both projects and hope to have that work done within the next three weeks or so.”

The city is considering building the parking garage on properties to the north of the Wheeling-Pitt building, though nothing is finalized, Herron said.

Meanwhile, alternative properties for a new public safety building are still being determined, but Herron expects city staff to present a recommendation to City Council in July or early August, he said.

Both projects have been in the works since early 2018, and since then the city has changed the original plans for both structures in lieu of less costly alternatives.

Work on the projects was further interrupted in March after Herron, who oversaw both efforts, was suspended following a DUI arrest. City Council voted 5-2 to reinstate Herron in May after he pleaded guilty to non-aggravated DUI.

For the parking garage, Wheeling committed to building the structure at the request of Coon Restoration and Sealants, the company that plans to renovate the Wheeling-Pitt building into a 110-unit apartment building.

Originally, the city planned to build the garage on current parking lots between 1145 Main and Market at the cost of $11 million with an additional lease agreement, but began pursuing other properties early this year.

Now, the city’s targeted location for the garage is on properties to the north of the Wheeling-Pitt building on Market Street. Among those potential buildings are the former site of Chris Miller Furniture, which closed just over a year ago.

Herron said he could not provide a number on how much the demolition and construction for the garage would cost, but said the city hopes to include 300 to 400 spaces. The cost will be based on final architecture and engineering, he said.

The city met with developer Steve Coon about two weeks ago, who said he is actively pursuing the rehabilitation project and is currently in the financing phase, Herron said.

“The renovation of the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building and the proposed parking structure are active projects that are being pursued by both the developer and the city,” he said.

The city is also making progress on planning new facilities for the city’s police and fire departments, Herron said.

Last year, Wheeling proposed a $22 million structure that would house both departments, which are in need of more space. A tax levy to fund the project failed to garner the 60 percent of votes needed to pass.

Afterward, city officials expressed a desire to still pursue the building given the majority of voters who were in favor of the building. Officials discussed enacting a use fee, a weekly tax on workers in the city, to fund the structure.

Since February, Wheeling staff worked to consider new properties and designs for a public safety building. Herron said he wouldn’t yet comment on where some of the alternatives are located.

“We have options. We’re close,” he said.

In addition, the new plans for a public safety building will cost less than the original design, which would have cost around $19 million to build, Herron said.

“The public safety building is much needed,” he said. “The sites that we’re considering are centrally located, and the type of building, the layout of the buildings will be different depending on the site, which drives the cost of the project.”