WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) –  It’s become a bit of a Wheeling landmark, but it’s also sitting vacant. 

The former Columbia gas building on 16th Street in downtown now has a new owner and is about to get quite the makeover. 

Helping Heroes announced on Thursday that it will be calling that historic property home. What they’ll be able to do with the space will transform the way the help veterans and their families in the Ohio Valley. 

Now it’s time for us to purchase our own building and really lay down our roots and do a project here in Wheeling to be our permanent home.

R.J. Konkoleski, CEO, Helping Heroes

Two years ago Helping Heroes made the move from Moundsville to the Friendly City because 75% of the veterans they served were in the Wheeling area. With cooperation from the city, the organization is currently housed in the former OVMC complex. Now, they’re ready to expand.

Coming from a little storefront space that we had in Moundsville back in 2010 that we had to completely rehab as well, and then to be buying a six-story building in downtown Wheeling is amazing.

Jeremy Harrison, Co-Founder, Helping Heroes

Their new home will be this well-known building, originally built in 1961 by Steubenville architect John J. reiztz, for Manufacturer’s Light & Heat Company. 

Helping Heroes chose this location strategically. They it’s easier to access for the veterans they serve, especially homeless veterans who will easily be able to walk to the shelter when the new downtown location is ready.

It’s close to the library. It’s on the bus line. There’s access to education and healthcare. Banking services are all within a walkable distance which is important to our veterans.

R.J. Konkoleski, CEO, Helping Heroes

Over the years, the building has fallen into some disrepair, so it’s getting a multi-million dollar makeover. 

It will allow us the room to grow so that we’ll be able to, in the future, keep adding to our services without worrying how much space we have available or where we’re going to put new staff members we may hire.

R.J. Konkoleski, CEO, Helping Heroes

The six floors will be transformed into rooms for an emergency shelter for homeless veterans, transitional housing, spaces for education and training, office space for employees and an area for two new programs; a resale shop and a coffee shop. All of which will be ADA compliant. 

That resale shop will provide employment and income for the veterans Helping Heroes serves. It will also be another way the community can donate and some of the items will be given to veterans as they move into permanent housing.

As for the coffee shop, it’s been in the plans for Helping Heroes for a while. In addition to a delicious cup of coffee, it also will give a place for camaraderie.

I know lots of veterans who have regular stops at coffee shops and that’s a good time for them to get together and just talk about their experiences.

Jeremy Harrison, Co-Founder, Helping Heroes

Helping Heroes is working with Kayafas Architects on designing and planning for the space.

Since this building is well-known for its distinctive outer features, like a mosaic mural, helping heroes plans to restore rather than change the exterior.

It is old enough to be listed on the national register of historic places, so we’re going to maintain the look and feel of the building. It’ll be more of a restoration project. The mural that everyone seems to love will remain outside and be part of the Wheeling streetscape.

R.J. Konkoleski, CEO, Helping Heroes

Making this big of a mark on downtown Wheeling takes time. The group anticipates it will be about 24-months before the work is finished and they can move-in. Konkoleski tells 7News he anticipates that Helping Heroes may encounter some of the same issues all construction projects have right now; the availability of building materials and supply-chain issues.

In the meantime, Helping Heroes will continue to operate at full capacity at its current location in the former OVMC building.

They have a message for the veteran community and the 300 veterans and their families they already serve. Even though it’ll be a bit of a transition period, they aren’t going anywhere and help is still there.

I always say Helping Heroes is a philosophy. It’s not a place and we will always be there to serve our veterans.

R.J. Konkoleski, CEO, Helping Heroes

If you are a veteran in need and want to learn more about Helping Heroes call 304-232-0114 or visit helpingheroesinc.org.