WHEELING – When Alecto Healthcare’s Ohio Valley Medical Center closed in 2019, the impact was felt throughout the Ohio Valley, including center wheeling businesses that relied on foot traffic from the facility.
With the recent news of WVU Medicine’s plan to build a new regional cancer center in the OVMC footprint, the future is looking brighter for many business owners.
Libby Strong, owner of Smart Center Market, said a new cancer center will have a positive impact on all surrounding businesses.
“When the hospital closed, we didn’t realize how many customers we gained from it. When it closed we all took a hit. We definitely did that.” She said.
Strong said when OVMC was open, workers would stop by during their lunch break or after work to pick up a gift item. Before the closure, around 740 people were employed at OVMC.
People whose family members were being cared for at the facility would sometimes drop by to take a break and relax.
“It was very convenient for her,” she remarked.
WVU Medicine officials said it could take up to five years for the center to be completed and open. Strong hopes it will open sooner rather than later, noting that that is her only concern with the proposed project.
Ashley O’Neal, co-owner of Ash & Tin Boutique, said she was delighted to hear the news about the planned facility.
“I think it’s great. The absence of OVMC was sad for the Center Market”, She said. “It will help the shops and restaurants. I think it will be great for downtown Wheeling.”
O’Neal, who was a registered nurse before running her boutique, said she worked at OVMC and completed her clinical rotation there while studying for her nursing degree at West Liberty University.
“It’ll be nice to see some life back there,” She said.
Don Verhovec, Customer Service Manager at Famous Supply, believes that will be the case “great for the valley and great for the city.”
“I think it will be something that will help the people from here.” he said.
Verhovec said although his business is wholesale, he believes the project will create many jobs that will benefit all businesses in the Center Wheeling area.
“The construction jobs with all the trades too”, he said.
Market Cafe manager Jenny Showalter said she was excited to learn that a new medical facility is being built on the former OVMC site. She said the region needed another health center.
“These are wonderful news. Hopefully it will bring about the (Centre Market) boom again.” she said of its effects. “When OVMC left, it died down here. … I think it’s going to be fantastic.”
Center Market manager Brooke Price said after attending the press conference announcing the facility, she also shared the news with market companies, who were excited about it.
“It’s going to have a huge impact down here. Even when demolition begins, all workers will be on site. It will be of great help to everyone and the companies.” She said.
Price said that when she took over the market manager position in March, she went around and spoke to the companies, and most of them spoke about the negative impact OVMC’s closure was having on them.
Although it could take up to five years to complete, Price said new foot traffic is possible from the builders and vendors working on the building.
“I hope they like fish sandwiches”, she said, referring to the popular dish sold at Coleman’s Fish Market.
Rick Foose, a cancer survivor who painted freelance at a church in Center Wheeling, said he believes the cancer center will help many patients receive treatment locally.
“I think that’s a good idea. I don’t think they have to tear everything down. But if they have the money, so be it.” he said.
Courtney King, owner of Bite Me bakery, said she was concerned about the amount of extra traffic congestion the construction project could cause, but noted it was for a good cause.
“I think it’s good for the area. There will be more jobs and people in Wheeling. … There will be some growing pains in the beginning.” king said.
WVU Medicine’s proposed regional cancer center will be between 75,000 and 90,000 square feet and 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 cancer cases in the Wheeling area each year.
The most common types of cancer diagnosed in West Virginia include female breast, prostate, lung, bronchial, and colon and rectal cancers.
The City of Wheeling and Ohio County are expected to shoulder most of the cost of demolishing the old OVMC buildings to make way for the new facility.
The City of Wheeling is donating the land to WVU Medicine.
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