McLain Flats Adding to Downtown Living

She was involved in a conversation that concerned living in the downtown Wheeling area and whether or not the potential would be realized someday in the future.

Then the 16 Stone Lofts on Main Street opened by The Woda Group and quickly were filled. The Boury Lofts, on the corner of Main and 16th streets, were next this past May, and Woda reported a vast majority of the units were leased.

During the past two weeks, though, Missy Ashmore from Kennen & Kennen has been busy showing the newest units that have come available at The McClain Flats on the corner of 12th and Eoff streets. The structure, once an attorney’s office with apartments above, sat vacant for more than four years, but renovations began a few months ago soon after it was purchased by Chase Kaldor of CBK Restoration, LLC.

“It was a conversation about what needed to happen first. Did we need housing first or did we need food first, and that’s when we didn’t have much housing in the downtown area,” Ashmore recalled. “We knew at that time that change was possible, but no one was really doing anything yet even though there were people saying that they wanted to live in the downtown.

“Soon after that conversation, Woda did come in, and they create the lofts in the Stone Center, and then they turned the old Boury warehouse into housing, too,” she said. “Those were two very positive steps, but I believe the real champions of this movement are Kevin Duffin and Chase Kaldor because they are putting their own money into older buildings that were not being used for anything. They are local people, too, and they are doing it because they’ve decided to put their money where their mouth is.”

The McLain Flats building, located at 83 12th Street in downtown Wheeling, contains six units that have been completely updated and have independent HVAC systems.

The history of the property dates back to the late 1800s, according to local historian Jean Finstein, and a plethora of different owners has lived and worked there. Finstein discovered, the McLain building has been bought and sold on three occasions, sine 2009, the final time this year by Kaldor. Ashmore said an enormous hole had developed in the roof, and new plumbing and wiring needed to be installed to bring the structure up to current codes.

Ashmore estimated it would take a few more weeks until the large apartments on the second floor will be ready for sale, and then the first floor units will be completed soon after.

“The response to the two lofts that are available now has been very good, and the big different between these units and what Woda has done is that these condos are for sale and not for rent,” Ashmore explained. “Most of the people have expressed to me that they want the first floor and not the third, and there are a lot of questions about parking, and that is something that we are working with the city on.

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“One of the two units on the third floor is under contract already, and I believe the other one will be sold soon,” she said. “We are still showing them every day, and the feedback has been very good because I think the people have realized that the days of scoring a $40,000 condo in the downtown area are over. Today they are between $80,000-$100,000, and I believe two years from now there will be a lot of people kicking themselves because they didn’t buy one.”

Each unit is close to 17 feet wide and more than 90 feet in length.

One development that could alter the region’s real estate market, Ashmore said, is the proposed $6 billion petrochemical plant in Belmont County. PTT Global officials are expected to make their decision by the end of this year after spending $100 million on a design and engineering plan and $114 for the land on which First Energy operated the former Burger Power Plant.

Company officials currently are meeting with several other property owners in the Dilles Bottom area because PTT Global has stated it will need more than 500 acres to construct the ethane “cracker” plant the company has planned.

“At this time, we don’t know what the company’s decision will be, but you have to wonder what’s going to happen to the property values across the Upper Ohio Valley if it’s a go,” Ashmore said. “If they decide to move forward with the cracker and we’re going to get all of these people in town, it will be a matter of supply and demand, and our property values are going to increase a lot.

“It is encouraging, but the negative side to that is the people who are sitting on houses now are not going to let them go because they want to see what happens with that project,” she said. “There are a lot of people who are very optimistic that it’s going to happen, but we will see. Real estate prices do not change until there are valid reasons for them to change, and a project like that would have a very large impact.”

Caroline Beckwith, center, took several friends to examine one of the third-story units before opting to enter into a contract to purchase one.

Many in the region may believe Wheeling’s downtown area is ripe with vacant buildings that are up for sale, but Ashmore said it is not true.

“What is true is that there really are not many more buildings left in the downtown area that could be restored and converted into housing,” she said. “The perception is that downtown Wheeling is filled with empty, vacant buildings, but that’s just not true. There are very few buildings that are for sale, so that is another challenge for people in the business I am in.

“One thing that has happened with local real estate is that we are coming out of a two-year slump as far as the high-end properties,” Ashmore added. “That includes any properties that are over $300,000, and that was because the local hospitals were not doing much hiring, but it seems to be all green lights right now in the land of real estate.”

(Photos by Steve Novotney)

Content paid for by KENNEN & KENNEN, Robert D. Kennen, Broker