WHEELING - Renovation of the former Straub car dealership properties to help expand West Virginia Northern Community College's downtown campus is expected to begin sometime in April.
Steve Lippiello, WVNCC vice president of administrative services and chief financial officer, said Tuesday that bids for a general contractor are scheduled to be opened Friday in Charleston.
''We held a pre-bid meeting and 13 general contractors from three different states - Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania - attended. ... We explained the project to them. They inspected the facility and got to ask about specifications,'' Lippiello said.
Asbestos abatement work already has been completed on both the former Honda and Hyundai buildings at Market and 16th streets.
''Both buildings should be complete in the same time frame - February 2013,'' he said.
The Honda building, which will be called the Applied Technology Center, will house the school's industrial maintenance, heating ventilation and air conditioning, and other classes.
And the Hyundai building will house a Barnes & Noble bookstore and cafe on the first floor. A second story will be added to the building and will house a student activity center. The bookstore and cafe will be open to the public.
''We'll allow them to occupy the space and, in return, we will receive a commission of the sales,'' he said of the bookstore agreement. ''It will be a full retail bookstore. ... The cafe will have coffee and pastries and there will be outdoor seating.''
Lippiello noted during the beginning of a term, the student lounge will be used to distribute textbooks to students. But students can also purchase books in the store throughout the year. The existing bookstore space, also operated by Barnes & Noble, inside the college's B&O Building may be repurposed.
''I think it will be a beautiful addition to downtown Wheeling - there's no doubt about that,'' he said. ''We think it will greatly benefit the community.
"We want to be ingrained in our community and this project allows us to do that.''
WVNCC purchased the Straub properties last August for $1.05 million from the Ohio County Development Authority. The OCDA did a land swap of sorts with Straub, which moved its car dealership to property at The Highlands.
Meanwhile, directly behind the B&O Building, the Electrical Contractors Supply Co. building is for sale for $750,000.
Lippiello noted the college has expressed interest in the structure, but noted there has been no movement on the price.
And the college, he said, is not sure exactly what they would do with building, but acknowledges its proximity to its campus is a draw.
''We're keeping our eyes open. ... The time is not right,'' Lippiello said.
The ECS building is listed by Broadwater Properties.