WHEELING, W.Va. — Continued economic development is at the forefront of Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott’s agenda for the coming year in his Ohio County city.
“It’s hard to find a property right now in Downtown Wheeling that’s not being actively looked at or shopped or which is already under development,” Elliott told MetroNews of the potential in Wheeling’s Downtown Central Business District.
These days, “We’re seeing a lot of these former buildings, which were seen as sort of being liabilities, being seen as opportunities.”
On Tuesday, Elliott will outline his priorities for Wheeling during his 2nd State of the City Address during a 12 p.m. event at Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack.
The annual speech was postponed from a previously scheduled date due to flooding.
Earlier this year, The Health Plan officially relocated to what Elliott said was the first new building built in Downtown Wheeling since 1982, a $16 million headquarters.
“The Health Plan coming here is a very significant psychological boon for the city,” Elliott said.
“Just seeing cranes set up in our Downtown to build a new building rather than to tear down an old one, it’s very hard to put into words what that means.”
With hundreds of Health Plan workers on site, Elliott predicted new developments ahead in first floor retail spaces.
The largest building in Wheeling, the 12-story former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel building dating back to 1905, has sat empty since early 2013 following multiple mergers and the bankruptcy of RG Steel.
Currently, a developer is working on plans to convert that building into about 100 apartment space at a projected cost of nearly $20 million. The project is linked to city-funded construction of a nearby parking garage for residents.
Elected in 2016, Elliott’s plans for Wheeling also include increased investments in the city parks and recreation spaces along with Heritage Port, Wheeling’s riverfront.
Last week, the move of the Mountain East Conference Basketball Tournament from Charleston to Wheeling was announced. For the next two years at least, WesBanco Arena — which is undergoing extensive renovations — will host the MEC championship games.
Elliott said he hoped to see many future basketball events there.
Next year will mark the City of Wheeling’s 250th year.
“We have been a city, like so many cities in the Rust Belt, that’s experienced really generations, going back 40 years, of almost decline and economic stagnation,” Elliott said.
There have been signs of hope in the past decade, in his view.
“We’re far from out of the woods, but it’s a really exciting time for the city.”