The boards of directors for Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation(WNHAC) and Reinvent Wheeling are pleased to announce a merger of the organizations, a natural progression as the organizations work together to increase their community and economic impact through historic preservation and economic revitalization efforts. Under the merger approved by both boards, the organizations will become known as Wheeling Heritage and be governed by a 23-member merged board. Reinvent Wheeling will retain its name and identity, serving as Wheeling Heritage’s arm to help shape Downtown’s revitalization. Projects undertaken by both entities will continue as the merged organization continues its plans to activate the community in more initiatives.
Arch W. Riley, Jr., chairman of the Wheeling Heritage board stated, “Individuals, families, entrepreneurs and even corporations want to live, work and play in a community steeped in a rich history. Ensuring that we’re leveraging the development opportunities that our rich history provides, WHNAC encouraged the creation of Reinvent Wheeling in 2009. We’ve been working closely with the group for several years and our merger will not only improve our operations, but will work to engage more stakeholders and residents in the myriad projects under way.”
“This merger is a natural next step in the positive relationship that we’ve developed,” said Jake Dougherty, Director of Reinvent Wheeling. “For over 20 years, WHNAC has made significant strides in affecting Wheeling’s economic development through meaningful preservation of Downtown structures and new buildings and entertainment venues. We’re thrilled to continue – and even bolster this work – and have big ideas when it comes to engaging more homeowners and residents.”
The merger will bring operational efficiencies that include eliminating duplicative expenses, such as accounting and employee insurance costs. Combined, the organization has four full-time employees and two AmeriCorps members.
“Development and heritage go hand in hand as we look toward a future that further embraces Wheeling’s history,” said Jeanne Finstein, Interim Director of Wheeling Heritage. “By merging, we can supplement the efforts of each group with new ideas and energy.”
Top initiatives include heritage-focused economic development at the core of the city, restoration of Mt. Wood Cemetery, and renovation of the 1837 Blue Church in East Wheeling. Other key initiatives include: building analyses of historic properties and “preservation” assistance for owners; small business/entrepreneurship assistance; collections of archival materials; the awarding of mini-grants; and an effort to establish a Wheeling Museum.
Reinvent Wheeling will continue regular successful events such as Show of Hands, which uses crowdfunding to foster entrepreneurism and has awarded more than $18,000 to projects as a result of eight events. For-profit and nonprofit groups can apply for the micro-grants from a Show of Hands and present a four-minute pitch to the crowd, which votes on projects to fund. Other community initiatives that have spurred social engagement include Big Ideas, Small Business Promotion and Workshops, and Public Space Development.
“It’s a great time to be living and working in Wheeling, and we think anyone who wants to can play a role in revitalization projects and benefit from the changes,” said Riley.