Desmone Architects Selected to Lead Wheeling Gateway Center Project

Visit Wheeling, WV, in conjunction with Wheeling Heritage, The City of Wheeling, Ohio County, and The Regional Economic Development Partnership have recently completed interviews with Vridian, Desmone Architects, and the Mills Group for the Wheeling Gateway Center’s Architecture, Engineering and Site Technical Diligence request for proposals (RFP). 

Members from each of these organizations evaluated each team on their overall project methodology, proposed key milestones, schedule, communication plan, and overall capacity to lead the design, engineering, and site development of the region’s transformative Wheeling Gateway Center project.  

Each stakeholder provided their own scores on each of the categories, and in the end, the Morgantown-based architectural team of Desmone received the highest score, followed by Mills Group, and then Vridian. The procurement process followed the State of West Virginia’s 5G guidelines, which means that the Desmone team will enter into contract negotiations to complete the work.   

“The caliber of each project team was truly impressive, and all three teams presented very compelling solutions and methodologies to help our region complete this transformative project,” said Frank O’Brien, executive director of the Convention Visitors Bureau.

O’Brien added, “The Desmone team proposed a project manager that led the Pike’s Peak Visitor’s Center, which is 14,000 feet in altitude, and nationally recognized as one of the most visited mountains in Colorado. With tourism as one of the primary cornerstones of our mission, we are excited to bring insights and lessons learned from Colorado’s tourism strategies into our project. We intend to make the state’s first visitor experience in the northern part of West Virginia one of the greatest success stories.”

The project is set to redefine the City of Wheeling’s primary entrance from the I-70 corridor, situated next to the iconic and historic Wheeling Suspension Bridge, and bolster economic growth through tourism in the Northern West Virginia panhandle.

Now that a project team has been identified, the top priority of the design and engineering teams will be to do the necessary site technical diligence work, which will drive the logistics of the environmental remediation and demolition plan. Furthermore, this information will also inform the ultimate location and building footprint of the new Visitor’s and Heritage Center, along with connectivity to the Ohio River waterfront and Heritage Trail. 

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“As a designated National Heritage Area and the birthplace of West Virginia, the fusion of a heritage experience into the visitor’s center is crucial,” said Scott Schenerlein, executive director of Wheeling Heritage. “The Desmone project team demonstrated a breadth of experience in establishing visitor’s experiences and important complementary revenue-generating uses for nationally-recognized places like the Andy Warhol Museum, the Heinz History Center, and the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum.”

The RFP for Architecture, Engineering, and Site Technical Diligence was released on August 23. Six proposals were received, with three finalists announced on September 30. 

The procurement process was led by Tipping Point, which was hired by the Wheeling National Heritage Area Foundation in July. Once a design and engineering contract is established, the project team will facilitate community meetings to inform additional experiences that locals would like to have on the site beyond the Visitors and Heritage Center. Long-term financial sustainability is a top priority for all of the regional stakeholders involved, and other potential uses identified by community members will be extremely important.

“We really appreciated the innovative and technology-driven strategies that Vridian brought, and hope to have an opportunity to work with them on something else in the future,” said Jim Ambrose, president of Tipping Point.

Ambrose added, “The local experience of Mills Group was pretty impressive, and Mills Group has many projects underway throughout West Virginia. We hope to also expand our relationship with Mills on future economic development projects throughout the state of West Virginia.”

An additional request for proposal for demolition and remediation contractors will also be released at a later date, which will focus on the expedient and safe removal of the Wheeling Inn structure. 

Further information regarding future proposal requests can be accessed on the Wheeling Convention and  Visitors Bureau website at and Tipping Point’s website for future project updates.