Dilapidated house soon to be site of community garden

WEIRTON – A dilapidated property in downtown Weirton could soon have a new use to benefit the entire neighborhood, and, especially, local youth. On Wednesday, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, working with Wells Fargo, the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center and the City of Weirton, unveiled plans to demolish a structure at 3105 Elm St. in the city in a continuing effort to remove slum and blight in local communities. “This initiative will help us tremendously in the panhandle, because we just do not have enough money to take care of all of these homes that have been abandoned,” BDC Board Chair Bill D'Alesio explained. Article Photos FUTURE SITE OF GARDEN — Representatives of the Business Development Corp., Weirton Christian Center and the City of Weirton stand outside the house at 3105 Elm St. Wednesday. The house, which has sat vacant for years, soon will be demolished and the site used as a community garden by the Weirton Christian Center. -Craig Howell       According to Pat Ford, BDC executive director, Wells Fargo acquires some houses after they have been foreclosed. Under its Community Urban Stabilization Program, it then partners with faith-based or non-profit groups to either eliminate blight or renovate the homes and make them available to people with low to moderate incomes. As part of the initiative, once demolition is complete, the Elm Street property will be turned over to the Weirton Christian Center with plans to establish a new community garden. “The BDC doesn't want to own it,” Ford said. “We just want to be part of the solution.” Ford noted Wells Fargo requires the inclusion of a faith-based organization in these endeavors. Kim Weaver, director of the Weirton Christian Center noted a garden had been established at the center already, and they were looking for additional opportunities for such a project. “Our plan was to expand ours this year,” Weaver said, noting the property would be the perfect site for a garden. “This is right in the midst of our community.” The Weirton Christian Center has used its community garden projects to teach youth about the values of fresh vegetables, allowing students to work in the garden and use the vegetables in its nutrition program. Ward 4 Councilman George Ash, who also sits on the city's Building Enforcement Agency, said he is pleased with the project. Elm Street is located in Ward 4. “This particular house has been vacant for a while,” Ash said, noting the longer it sits empty, the more problems it could cause for the city. Ford noted such properties often are a deterrent to companies and developers looking at bringing a project into a particular area. The Elm Street site is just one of six properties the BDC is focused on for blight removal projects. In Weirton, structures at 184 Culler Road and 226 N. 20th St. also are set for demolition, with projects still to be determined. A property at 118 4th St. in Wellsburg will soon be turned over to the Salvation Army for use as a park, and a site in Beech Bottom will be turned over to the community's Apostolic Church. The BDC previously renovated a house in Beech Bottom, which soon will be turned over to a family to be their new home. In addition to Wells Fargo, funding for these projects also has been provided through Hancock County Savings Bank and the Benedum Foundation.