Wheeling Inn Demolition Begins Today

Wheeling Inn Demolition Begins Today

Photo by Derek Redd

Fencing could be seen around the former Wheeling Inn on Tuesday. Abatement of asbestos and other hazardous materials will begin Wednesday, making way for the building’s demolition.

The first piece of the former Wheeling Inn will hit the ground at noon today, signaling the first step of the building’s removal – and the eventual arrival of the new Gateway Center.

The Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau – which bought the property last January – announced Tuesday that Raze International will knock down the former motel’s awning at noon today. That will allow for better truck access to the motel building to remove asbestos, other hazardous materials and other leftover items. That cleanup process will take about eight weeks, said Wheeling CVB Executive Director Frank O’Brien.

O’Brien said it was wonderful to see this important step happen in the remaking of downtown Wheeling’s look.

“It’s almost hard to believe that the day has finally arrived,” he said. “It’s been a long, laboring process. We’ve had great partners. We’ve always been optimistic that we would get here, but to finally reach this point … we just feel fantastic and we can’t wait to share that with the rest of the community.”

Once that cleanup is finished, O’Brien said he sees no reason that crews can’t move directly into tearing down the building. That is predicted to happen sometime in September, and a groundbreaking ceremony will be announced sometime later this summer.

The Wheeling CVB bought the former motel in January 2023 for $1.7 million and announced that a Gateway Center – a new visitors center the CVB believes will be an appropriate introduction to downtown Wheeling – will rise in its place. The total project has a price tag estimated between $13-$16 million.

The CVB hired Tipping Point, a Pennsylvania development company, to oversee the project. Since the purchase, Tipping Point has sought input from the community on what type of center it would like to see on that land. More than 4,200 people responded and more than 100 photos offering design inspirations were uploaded to the survey’s website. The CVB and Tipping Point unveiled those survey results this past February.

Great care will be taken in the abatement and demolition process, O’Brien said, especially since the Wheeling Suspension Bridge sits right next to the property. The bridge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is undergoing its own $18 million rehabilitation. It has been closed to vehicle traffic since September 2019 since it was damaged by an oversized vehicle.

O’Brien said vibration monitors have been placed on the bridge to ensure that none of its repairs would be harmed by the Wheeling Inn demolition.

“Our team is fully committed to executing this project with the highest standards of safety and efficiency,” Raze International President Debbie Brown said. “We appreciate the city and state’s support and collaboration as we embark on this important endeavor, especially with the ongoing Streetscape road project.”

The Downtown Streetscape Project, transforming Main and Market streets in downtown Wheeling, is going on at the same time as the Wheeling Inn project.

O’Brien said he’s pleased that his organization will play a part in that downtown transformation.

“We’re pretty proud of the process that we’ve used, and Tipping Point has really helped us get there,” he said. “So we’re very happy. This is a great time for us.”

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