It was supposed to be this and that, and it’s not. There are 850 parking spots, and Monday through Friday far fewer than half are filled.
The Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center at 14th and Main streets is a pristine example of the infamous “earmark,” you see, a federally funded improvement project that, so far, has proven to be a bridge to nowhere. Buildings stood on this corner once, and then a large parking lot for the civic center, but now it’s a six-story parking garage with a street level that’s only 50 percent occupied.
The Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau office is located inside along 14th Street, but the ground level on Main Street has been vacant since Greyhound moved out in 2011. The CVB was allotted its space in 2001 for 25 years via a $1 million contribution by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. because the tourism organization is a component of the definition of intermodal transportation hubs, according to Frank O’Brien, the executive director.
Desmond Design Management, the parking consultant and structural engineer of the facility, explained the following:
“Description: The Robert C. Byrd Intermodal Transportation Center (ITC), designed for the Ohio Valley Area Regional Transit Authority (OVARTA) is a key component of the Wheeling National Heritage Plan, providing parking at the Gateway to Wheeling’s Historic Heritage Port. The Heritage Plan includes economic development of the Wheeling waterfront on the Ohio River and development of existing historical and cultural resources. The ITC is located adjacent to the Artisan’s Center, Wheeling Civic Center, Capital Music Hall, and West Virginia Northern Community College.
“Constructed on caissons bearing on rock, this pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete open parking structure provides a durable low-maintenance facility. The integral concourse is of steel frame construction and provides space for the National Park Service Visitor Center and OVRTA. The facility provides an intermodal link for a regional bus line, interstate buses, local taxi service and bicycles. Funding sources for the facility included the FTA, National Park Service and local City of Wheeling resources.”
The Main Street portion, however, is where public buses continue to pick up and drop off passengers, but the interior, approximately 3,500 square feet with public restrooms and three doorways, sits vacant and has since the local Greyhound franchise moved out five years ago.
“The person who was the Greyhound agent rented space in the Intermodal,” said Wheeling City Manager Bob Herron. “She then retired, and then the next person (Roger Malone) decided not to rent the same space. Instead the stop moved to the corner of 14th and Main streets. It’s a private sector business.
“When it moved to the corner, we tried to work a deal so it could return to the Intermodal area, but the gentleman decided not to do that,” he continued. “Now Patrick (Viola) has taken it over, and the stop has moved again to 12th Street.”
Herron understands operating the local Greyhound franchise is not a huge moneymaker based on what Malone explained while making his decision not to locate within the Intermodal’s street-level space.
“Based on what I remember from when Greyhound operated out of the Intermodal, I do not think there is enough revenue to allow for someone to just be a Greyhound agent,” Herron said. “I would love to see it return to the Intermodal, but that’s a private-sector decision.”
Patrick Viola, the current Greyhound agent in Wheeling and owner of Security Travel on Market Street, said locating the Greyhound stop at the Intermodal is unnecessary in his opinion. He has also learned from veteran passengers who have often stopped in downtown Wheeling during their travels that the restrooms at the Intermodal were locked far too often, and that a conflict for space was active at the time between the Greyhound vehicles and the public buses.
“When they closed the big Greyhound terminal, the people at that time opened an office on 12th Street next to the McLure Hotel, and then it moved from there to the Intermodal after that,” he said. “Now that I am the agent, the bus stop is back on 12th Street, and the passengers hang out in our office here at Security Travel, or if it’s after we’re closed, the hotel owners are permitting them to wait for their bus in the hotel lobby.
“We are also trying to work with the owner of the McClain Building to allow Greyhound to place a nice bench along 12th Street, but we’ve not heard anything from him about that,” he continued. “That way it works is that I get a commission on the tickets that we sell here, and it’s working very well for us so far.”
There may soon be a demand for the space inside the Intermodal what with 77 loft apartments that will comprise the Woda Group’s Boury Lofts project on the corner of 15th and Main streets as well as the apartments inside the Flatiron Building adjacent to the parking facility. The owner of the Flatiron Building, Kevin Duffin, developed an agreement with the city of Wheeling for the structures to gain direct access to the garage on all floors above the first.
“Plus, there is the potential because the future residents of the Boury Lofts will be using 89 spaces inside the Intermodal,” Herron said. “But, as far as the street level, there’s nothing that I am aware of right now, but I expect to hear ideas in the future.
“We do, from time to time, show that area, but there’s nothing active right now,” he continued. “The building is owned by the (Ohio Valley Regional Transportation Authority), but it is managed by the city, so the city is responsible for showing it to prospective business owners. As far as what could go in there, we would be flexible with anyone who approached us about it.”
Herron said at this time the space could house one or more businesses, but he has not thought of what kind of operations would work best at the location.
“We realize that we would be competing against commercial space, so we would be cognizant of that fact when we determined what to charge per square-foot on the street level of the Intermodal,” Herron said. “As far as what could go into that area, I don’t think we have an idea at this time. It really just depends on what is proposed.
“We do know that the Boury Loft project is ongoing, and it’s on time as far as having so many apartments available by October. It’s a big project, so when the first units become available, I am sure it will continue until all of them are completed,” Herron added. “Anytime there is a proposal for a city-owned building or city-managed properties, we take everything into account, including whether or not there will be additional costs to the city to prepare the location, so hopefully the potential we believe is there is realized as those projects move closer to completion.”
(Photos by Steve Novotney)