While clearing away dilapidated buildings may be clearing the way to move forward, real progress in downtown Wheeling has been scarce during the past few years. Except for West Virginia Northern Community College's transformation of two Market Street buildings, little change has occurred.
Now another institution of higher learning, Wheeling Jesuit University, has a plan that will help improve the attractiveness of an area a few blocks north of WVNCC, while also bringing substantially more people to the downtown district. City officials have been asked to aid the WJU plan, and should do so.
WJU officials had announced a few weeks ago they plan to move the university's physical therapy program from the main campus to the Stone Center. Faculty and students in the physical therapy doctoral program will be located in the building, which is owned by the Regional Economic Development Partnership.
In addition to offering classes at the Stone Center, WJU will provide a free physical therapy clinic for area residents. The downtown location will make it easier for those who need such services to obtain them.
But WJU needs help with the $3 million project. It is seeking $300,000 from the city in tax increment financing program money. City Council members are to vote on the request this afternoon.
There is precedent for approving the request. The city provided $150,000 in TIF money to WVNCC for its renovation project, and that has turned out splendidly.
Council also should approve funding for WJU. The university's proposal is for precisely the type of economic development needed in downtown Wheeling. Again, it will fill part of the Stone Center with an attractive facility and will bring more "traffic" to the business district.
City Manager Robert Herron has called the WJU plan "a first-class project." He is absolutely right, and the university should be supported in bringing the plan to fruition.