WHEELING – When Ohio Valley Medical Center was closed in 2019 by Alecto Healthcare, the impact was felt throughout the Ohio Valley, including businesses in Center Wheeling that relied on foot traffic from the establishment.
Now, with the recent announcement of WVU Medicine’s plan to build a new Regional Cancer Center within the OVMC footprint, the future looks brighter for many business owners.
Libby Strong, owner of Smart Center Market, said having a new cancer center will have a positive impact on all surrounding businesses.
“When the hospital closed, we didn’t realize how many clients we had. When it closed we all took a hit. We certainly did,” she says.
Strong said that when the OVMC was open, there were workers stopping by on their lunch break or after work to pick up a gift. Prior to its closure, approximately 740 people worked at the OVMC.
People whose family members were receiving care inside the facility sometimes stopped just to take a break and relax.
“It was very convenient for them” she noted.
WVU Medicine officials said it could take up to five years for the center to be completed and open. Strong hopes he will open as soon as possible, noting that is his only concern with the planned project.
Ashley O’Neal, co-owner of Ash & Tin Boutique, said she was happy to hear the news of the planned facility.
“I think it’s great. Not having OVMC was sad for the central market,” she says. “It will help businesses and restaurants. I think it will be great for downtown Wheeling.
O’Neal, who was a nurse before running her shop, said she worked at OVMC and did her clinical rotation there while studying for her nursing degree at West Liberty University.
“It will be nice to see some life there,” she says.
Don Verhovec, Customer Service Manager at Famous Supply, thinks the installation will be “ideal for the valley and ideal for the city.”
“I think it will be something that will help people here,” he said.
Verhovec said that although his business is a wholesale business, he believes the project will create many jobs that will help all businesses in the Center Wheeling area.
“Even the building trades with all the trades” he said.
Jenny Showalter, manager of the Market Cafe, said she was delighted to learn that a new medical center was to be built on the former OVMC site. She said the area needed another health center.
“This is wonderful news. Hopefully this will blow up the (central market) again,” she said of its impact. “When the OVMC left, it died out here. … I think it will be amazing.
Brooke Price, director of Center Market, said that after attending the press conference to announce the facility, she spread the news to businesses in the market who were also thrilled.
“It’s going to have a huge impact here. Even with the start of demolition, all workers will be on site. It will be a great help for everyone and for businesses,” she says.
Price said when she took over as market manager in March, she went around and talked to companies and most of them talked about the negative impact the OVMC shutdown has had. had on them.
Although it could take up to five years, Price said new foot traffic could be created by construction workers and vendors working on the building.
“I hope they like fish sandwiches,” she said, referring to the popular dish sold at the Coleman Fish Market.
While doing freelance painting work at a church in central Wheeling, Wheeling resident Rick Foose, a cancer survivor, said he believes the cancer center will help many patients receive care locally.
“I think it’s a good idea. I don’t think they need to take it all apart. But if they have the money to do it, so be it. he said.
Courtney King, owner of the Bite Me bakery, expressed concern about the additional traffic congestion the construction project could cause, but noted that it was for a good cause.
“I think it’s good for the region. There will be more jobs and people in Wheeling. … There will be some growing pains at first,” said the king.
The regional cancer center planned by WVU Medicine will have between 75,000 and 90,000 square feet of space and will employ approximately 150 people. The facility is expected to receive approximately 40,000 patient visits per year.
According to WVU Medicine, West Virginia has the second highest cancer death rate in the United States. The WVU Cancer Institute diagnoses approximately 1,200 cases of cancer each year in the Wheeling area.
The most common types of cancer diagnosed in West Virginia include female breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, and colon and rectal cancer.
The City of Wheeling and Ohio County are expected to cover most of the cost of demolishing the old OVMC buildings to make way for the new facility.
The City of Wheeling is donating the plots of land to WVU Medicine.