Bringing New Life to History

Wheeling is getting spiffed, shined, and buffed. To the north Victorian neighborhoods are full of painted ladies getting a face-lift. Ms. Hogan and her OnTRAC design team are beautifying gateways to the city. In the middle of downtown the ten story ‘Riley’ building is becoming the Kaley Center.

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Photos by Julie Doerr

West Virginia Northern Community College (WVNCC) is securing their place in downtown Wheeling by developing a corner campus on the south end.

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Photo by Julie Doerr

The care of these old buildings draws attention to more than the new white windows and creamy exact stone along the sidewalk. The renovations represent a spirit reviving the attitude of people making the streets busier. The architectural firm I am associated with, SMG Architects, has held an important role leading the design efforts of the two newest buildings of WVNCC. We have also been integral on every floor, inside and out, of the new Kaley Center. It is evident in the positive community response how thoughtful architecture gives back to a town more than what each private client desired.

The transformation of the Riley building into the Kaley Center began as Kalkreuth initiated combining multiple Wheeling locations into once central space. The renovation of this tall thin building is opening up eyes to the street; hundreds of new windows closed over in the 70’s have been replaced. The new white windows against recently repointed brick and a freshly orange painted north side make the building look new. It’s a dramatic re-entry into the city looking up and down so many streets where many buildings like it have been torn down. Out of a 5th story window the historic Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passenger station (B&O) roof can be seen. This significant structure is WVNCC’s main building which was renovated by SMG in the 90’s.

WVNCC is further securing their place in downtown Wheeling by redeveloping two existing buildings on opposite street corners of their main building.

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Photo by Julie Doerr

With the recent renovation of the two buildings the core of campus straddles a busy intersection of two crossroads in and out of the city. The piazza in front of the B&O building links the two renovations to this historic one. On the forth side and enclosing the concentrated campus around the piazza, is no less significant a building –it is West Virginia’s Independence Hall.

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Photo by Julie Doerr

The importance of these buildings throughout West Virginia’s history implies that many tourists and locals alike would seek this area for enjoyment. They played a role inspiring the two older buildings in need of renovation to finish the area as a complete destination. The area will play a role in the historical atmosphere as well as an academic lifestyle. The  Applied Technology Center (ATC) is now ready for fall-time operation. The recent ribbon cutting received a lot of local focus –‘A beautiful building inside and out.’ The exterior arches took direction from Independence Hall. The parapet was cut to lighten the brick load above.

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The stone base and new mullioned windows provide more detail at the pedestrian scale and demand the use as a new and proper entrance.

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Remnants of the building’s former use as a theater were found at the second level, an open area formerly used to store vehicles, and in the dark recesses of the attic above.

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Over the large floor area the tin ceiling was repainted metallic silver and walls were built not to touch or disrupt the eye along the beautiful coffered ceiling. Rough plaster and exposed brick were refreshed and painted moody blue while fluted plaster details of the structural brick columns remain as white supports. The large spaces are used for heavy rolling carts allowing students to imitate taking apart and fixing complicated HVAC components. The size of the rooms also allowed for a bold array of colors –purple off setting receptacles on red wheels –red hallways, checker patterned floors fading like the plaster walls to the exposed brick. SMG ran with the idea that color could be used to enhance the heightened activity of what these students were going to learn. The majority of students going through WVNCC are working locally after graduation. This is a place where local students can hone their abilities and then give back to the community. It was a task taken seriously by SMG.

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Colorful photos above by Julie Doerr

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photo by Julie Doerr

Something more  for locals to enjoy will be opening across the street in about a month. A Barnes & Noble will be the coffee shop/ book store tenant on the bottom floor of WVNCC’s student center building. The triangular site houses the foundation of the former one-story triangular building. SMG left three walls and built out at the east side to position a new elevator, stair, and clock tower closest to the main campus building. The tower reminds an older generation of the clock tower that once stood over the site when trains coming to and from town were on elevated tracks.

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Taken from WVNCC’s website

Existing and construction photos of the new Student Center / B&N are shown below.

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photo by Julie Doerr

This new building will be clad in the thick two-foot long stone so that along three corners of the Market and 16th Street intersection, three buildings will belong to a campus. These renovations will pull the center of campus to the piazza in front of the B&O building –an area that hosts a garden for WVNCC’s Culinary school, ice-sculpting events, and the Wheeling Arts festival among other events throughout the year. The community and students alike will enjoy the new heartbeat of an enhanced southern end to downtown Wheeling.

As an architect it is wonderful to have a creative hand in a lot of these improvements. From large-scale buildings to smaller projects that catch the eye quickly along the sidewalk, every opportunity to make a place better counts. When one takes care of the city they live in they leave an everlasting impression on the spirit. This enables future generations to appreciate the hard work before them, and entices them to preserve this history that will enable new life to prosper.

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Other local stories of the success are copied below:

May 11, 2013~

WVNCC Scores Major Success

In baseball terms, what West Virginia Northern Community College has done at the corner of Market and 16th streets in Wheeling amounts to a grand slam.

WVNCC officials this week held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at their new Applied Technology Center in the former Straub Honda building.

College officials’ first score was in expanding their campus to provide better service to students.

Score No. 2 was in pursuing the “adaptive reuse” philosophy that already has been very successful in Wheeling. Instead of finding a vacant lot and erecting a new building, WVNCC remodeled, expanded and improved the existing structure. The same thing is being done across the street, with another former Straub building that will house a Barnes & Noble bookstore.

Third across home plate, so to speak, was WVNCC’s dedication to doing the Applied Technology Center right. Designed by Victor Greco and his SMG Architects firm of Wheeling, the center is simply beautiful. The exterior blends well with the historic West Virginia Independence Hall, just across Market Street.

Finally, the last big score by WVNCC is in the building’s purpose. It will provide job-ready graduates in a variety of in-demand technologies, ranging from welding to “mechatronics,” a blend of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering.

WVNCC has a long, proud tradition of working with business and industry to tailor its programs to job-providers’ needs. The Applied Technology Center takes that to a whole new, higher level.

The college also has a record of working with its communities – Wheeling, New Martinsville and Weirton – to improve them while serving students from their areas.

All involved in the new Wheeling campus facilities should be very proud of what has been accomplished. Again, WVNCC has scored big on this one.

May 7, 2013~

By Ian Hicks

College Unveils New Classroom Facilities

WHEELING – The result of five years of planning, property negotiation and construction was on display Monday as West Virginia Northern Community College unveiled its new Applied Technology Center in downtown Wheeling.

College officials said the former Straub Honda showroom at the corner of 16th and Market streets will be ready when fall semester classes begin Aug. 19. Many of the courses to be offered at the center, they said – including those in mechatronics, welding and diesel technology – are designed to help support the growing oil and gas industry and position students for success in that field and others.

“What people are going to learn here is going to be applicable to the jobs that are here and the jobs that are coming,” said college President Martin Olshinsky prior to a ceremonial ribbon cutting.

The building is painted in bright colors and large windows allow plenty of natural light inside, while several strategically placed cameras keep watch over the exterior. The first floor features a large reception area, office space and a refrigeration, heating and air conditioning lab decked out with all-new equipment, and two additional labs on the ground floor will house courses in welding and diesel technology.

The upstairs features additional classroom space as well as a large room that – despite the dizzying array of dials, buttons, switches and colored wires at its various work stations – is not the set of a science fiction film but WVNCC’s new mechatronics lab. There, students will learn a blend of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering that will help them deal with the sophisticated equipment of today’s manufacturing facilities.

“It’s industrial maintenance on steroids, if you will,” said Michael Koon, WVNCC’s vice president of workforce development.

While occupations typically are classified as “blue collar” or “white collar” depending on the nature of their demands, Koon said those who study mechatronics are forging their own identity in the work force.

“They’re calling them gold-collar workers because they mean that much to employers,” Koon said.

One of those employers is steelmaker ArcelorMittal, whose “Steelworker for the Future” concept was, in part, the genesis of WVNCC’s mechatronics program. It envisions a more tech-savvy, highly educated labor force to replace the current generation that is rapidly approaching retirement age.

James Skidmore, chancellor of the West Virginia Community and Technical College System, praised state legislators representing the Northern Panhandle for their support of the project, noting the $6 million capital projects bond issued in 2008 to fund this and other improvements for WVNCC was the first of its kind devoted exclusively to community colleges. He believes that step ultimately will open the door for more West Virginians to gain higher skills and higher wages.

“We did not always have the facilities to do that, and now we do,” Skidmore said.

With all but a few finishing touches at the Applied Technology Center complete, the focus now shifts to completing work on the opposite side of the corner on the former Straub Hyundai property, where a new Barnes & Noble store should provide a much-needed boost to the downtown Wheeling retail scene. That building, expected to be finished sometime in July, also will serve as a student activities center, though the bookstore will be open to the public.

Mayor Andy McKenzie said empty buildings in Wheeling all too often decay and end up being demolished, and he commended WVNCC for keeping that from happening to the Straub buildings, noting the Applied Technology Center was once a theater before it was a car dealership.

“Now, we’re seeing a great reuse of these structures in the downtown,” McKenzie said.

The project was designed by Victor Greco and his firm SMG Architects of Wheeling. DeSalvo Construction of Hubbard, Ohio, is the general contractor, which was the low bidder among eight competing firms.

April 21, 2013~

By Linda Comins

WVNCC Brightens Downtown

There is an old-time hymn that urges people to “brighten the corner where you are.” In the secular realm, officials of West Virginia Northern Community College and their design consultants are indeed brightening the corner of 16th and Market streets in downtown Wheeling.

Those of us who work in that downtown neighborhood have watched with abundant anticipation and curiosity as contractors have begun the process of transforming the former Straub automotive properties into modern educational facilities for the community college. Work is nearing completion on the first phase of the project, the repurposing and expansion of the former Honda dealership building on the corner of 16th and Market streets.

We watched with great interest as the letters spelling out the structure’s new name – Applied Technology Center – were affixed to the front of the building at mid-week. Upright banners bearing the Northern logo also were attached to the exterior of the renovated facility. Pedestrians gave a silent cheer as the new sidewalks were opened around the site.

Other finishing touches are being added to the new center, signaling the final phases of this work. We’re told that a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Applied Technology Center is planned for early May. In the near future, students will begin utilizing the complex to learn the latest technologies to prepare for 21st-century careers.

Meanwhile, work continues at a rapid pace on the other corner as the former Hyundai dealership building is being rebuilt and expanded for Northern’s new student center and Barnes and Noble bookstore. In a relatively short span, crews leveled all but one wall of the original structure and teams began to construct the new facility.

Wheeling architect Victor Greco, who designed the new facilities, deserves major awards for his innovative concepts and thoughtful attention to detail on the massive project. Greco utilized stonework on the Applied Technology Center to complement the beautiful sandstone of West Virginia Independence Hall, the National Historic Landmark located on the opposite corner of 16th and Market streets, and to echo the stonework on the college’s B&O Building situated diagonally across from the new center. In Greco’s vision, the brick facade of the Applied Technology Center matches the B&O Building’s red brick exterior.

Showing attention to detail, the architect designed the cool, new copper awnings on the Applied Technology Center as an homage to the copper trim on the roof of the B&O Building. Greco also plans to have green accents on the Applied Technology Center and on the student center-bookstore complex as a visual nod to the green tile roof of the B&O Building.

September 21, 2012~

By Sarah Harmon

WVNCC Begins $2.1M Renovation

WHEELING – As part of the ongoing expansion of its downtown campus, West Virginia Northern Community College officials broke ground Thursday morning for the $2.1 million renovation of the former Straub Hyundai building into the new Barnes & Noble bookstore and Student Union.

“By pairing an expanded Barnes & Noble bookstore and a larger space for students to gather, we believe West Virginia Northern is providing the internal and external college community in Wheeling and an exciting new meeting and shopping place,” Martin J. Olshinsky, WVNCC president, said. “We are growing, and so is the city.”

The renovation will be conducted by Trushel Construction Co. of Weirton, the successful low bidder on the project. Steve Lippiello, WVNCC’s vice president of administrative services, said the college expects construction to start by mid-October with a completion anticipated in June.

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Creating a campus is about the proximity of buildings. WVNCC was at one time only in the historic structure of the B&O building. But now, WVNCC has a campus. Campus is composed of four buildings that allow the students to cross over intersections in downtown Wheeling, WV. Two buildings designed by SMG will open this summer.

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