WHEELING - East Wheeling appears to be a neighborhood in transition, as new developments such as Wheeling Heights and a proposed sports complex are competing with dilapidated structures and years of neighborhood neglect.
Wheeling City Councilman Vernon Seals said he still recalls when 180 families lived in the brick buildings at the former Grandview Manor. At that time, police calls to the area occurred frequently, as crime was a major problem
That housing has since been replaced with single-family style homes built through a $17.1 million HOPE VI grant issued in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Wheeling Housing Authority.
This empty lot in East Wheeling soon could be home to a new housing development being planned by the Vandalia Heritage Foundation.
The new homes at what is now called Wheeling Heights are well maintained, and crime is much lower than it was 15 years ago. The Wheeling Housing Authority also has a no-tolerance policy for residents living there and at new housing in North Wheeling, meaning residents who are arrested can be evicted from their homes.
Wheeling Housing Authority Executive Director Randall Geese said 328 units at the former Grandview Manor were replaced by 86 units in Wheeling Heights.
James Stoneking was the former pastor at Grandview Mission Chapel, which held services in the manor's community room. He said some residents were troubled when they had to uproot their lives 10 years ago, but noted some of them ended up back in new housing at Wheeling Heights.
East Wheeling has seen several new redevelopment initiatives over the past decade, including last year's announcement of a proposed sports complex and the Vandalia Heritage Foundation's housing complex. What difference has that made in the neighborhood?
The Wheeling Heights development cleaned up the area where Grandview Manor used to be located, providing new single-family homes instead of just apartment buildings. The Vandalia Heritage Foundation also is working on a housing project in East Wheeling, and the city is hoping to construct a sports complex as part of its plan to revitalize the neighborhood.
More new East Wheeling housing currently is being considered. The Vandalia Heritage Foundation is set to build new HUD-approved housing in the area of 14th, 15th and Wood streets. It will consist of 17 units, but due to recent issues in property acquisition, the project has been held back until later this year. The plan will include restoring existing units and also constructing new housing units. Wheeling Development Director Nancy Prager hopes that Vandalia will pave the way for more development.
"I hope the Vandalia development is the first of many housing developments in the East Wheeling community, but it takes investors and vacant land to make that happen," she said.
Another measure to bring life back to East Wheeling is a proposed sports complex at 15th and Wood streets, an idea of Mayor Andy McKenzie and City Manager Robert Herron.
While the two would have liked to have the complex already under construction, they encountered a roadblock in property acquisition.
Councilman James Tiu owns a piece of rental property at the corner of 15th and Wood streets that he does not want to sell because he said the property serves as a major asset to his income. The mayor said that the city will be able to seize the home through eminent domain, but Tiu's attorney, Teresa Toriseva, said in December that if the city tries to take it, then there will be legal action.
Darryl Baynes, president of Interactive Science Programs, purchased the former Clay School in East Wheeling and has been pushing to build a multi-purpose facility there. He said the science attraction and community center he proposed will create jobs, bring tourism and provide activities for local children and adults.
However, as with the sports complex, he hit a roadblock.
His obstacle is finding a private investor who will help him make his dream a reality.