The Fort Henry Mall: “Bold and Exciting” or “Reckless Schemes”
After the heroic efforts required to fund the Center Wheeling urban renewal project, local leaders struggled to actually find industrial tenants after the area was demolished in the early 1960s. The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) eventually settled for a new post office and a trucking company – not exactly the catalyst for economic growth proponents had envisioned.
Over the next few years, however, URA officials had more success with a project assisting the expansion of the nearby Ohio Valley Medical Center, which in subsequent decades would become a mainstay of the regional economy. At the same time, the city’s public-private partnership turned its attention to a more controversial subject: the construction of a proposed “Northern Gateway” and civic center in the central business district. The increasingly decrepit Market Auditorium had long been a target of the Wheeling Conference on Community Development, the group of local businessmen who looked to the Pittsburgh Renaissance for inspiration in remaking their own city. When the URA demolished the site in 1964 and secured federal funds for a new civic center, the next phase in the Wheeling Renaissance seemed set to begin.1