City funds latest of eight grants for improving downtown building facades
WHEELING — Businessman and property owner Dean Connors will be able to put the upper floors of his building on Chapline Street to use, thanks to funding from a city of Wheeling program.
The building at 1035 Chapline St. is the latest of eight properties to be approved for a grant from the city’s Facade Improvement Program. The program provides money and design assistance for projects to improve the exteriors of commercial buildings in Downtown Wheeling.
Wheeling City Council approved a motion to provide a $13,103 grant for Connors’ property at Tuesday’s meeting. The money from the city will go toward manufacturing and installing a fire escape for the building, which will allow him to lease the second and third floors and to be compliant with building codes, Connors said.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Connors, who also owns the company CMS Bankcard Services. “I think any incentive that the city can give to private investors to renovate downtown properties is a good thing.”
The city has allocated more than $93,000 for the program and spent about $65,000 for grants since the initiative began in April 2017. The program is loosely modeled after a similar one in Greenville, South Carolina, Mayor Glenn Elliott said.
“Shortly after being sworn in as mayor, I visited Greenville to meet with city officials to discuss how they were able revitalize their downtown, which is widely considered one of the most successful efforts for downtown revitalization,” Elliott said. “This program was a direct result of that visit.”
Officially, the program can be used for privately owned commercial buildings in the Central Wheeling Business District. The city generally defines that as the area between Interstate 70 and 23rd Street, bound by Chapline Street on the east and Water Street on the west, according to city documents.
Through the program, the city can provide up to $15,000 per property for eligible improvements. Such improvements can include exterior painting or surface treatment, decorative awnings, window and door modifications, outdoor patios and decks, storefront enhancements and architectural features.
“We felt this was one way where the public sector and private sector could work together to help revitalize our downtown,” Vice Mayor Chad Thalman said. “Many residents feel a connection to downtown, and in many ways cities are judged by the vibrancy of their downtown.”
The first floor of the building on Chapline Street is used by Information Helpline, and Connors said other businesses are already interested in leasing the upper floors. Next, he plans to use the facade program to improve the other two properties he owns in Downtown Wheeling.
“This is going to be a really nice addition, and I’m glad to see you take advantage of this program,” Elliott said to Conners at Tuesday’s council meeting. “I hope to see more building owners do the same thing.”