Case Study

The Doris on Main Will Be a Great Reminder of Doris Woda  

6 min read

Expanding Housing Opportunities in Downtown Wheeling

Doris Ann Ingold Woda is going to be remembered in Wheeling for a long time. In fact, once it is finished in mid-2023, the first thing you will see when you enter the West Virginia city from the bridge over the Ohio River will be a building named for her.

Jeffrey J. Woda, principal of Woda Cooper Companies, thinks his late mother might be slightly annoyed about the name of The Doris on Main, a 46-unit workforce housing Opportunity Zone project under construction now on the site of an old parking lot. But he knows she’d love the building itself.

That’s because she was passionate about housing, helping Jeffrey Woda with the 1990 launch of what has now become Columbus, OH-based Woda Cooper Companies and really digging into the details of affordable housing development.

“There was nothing that thrilled her more than to find a site that checked all the boxes,” remembers Jeffrey Woda. “She really got into it.”

He recalls the firm’s first Low Income Housing Tax Credit development, Dutch Ridge in Parkersburg, WV, a 24-unit development that seemed huge at the time but not so much these days, now that the company has grown into owning and managing approximately 400 housing projects with 16,000 units in 16 states Dutch Ridge was placed in service in 1993 after Woda “worked feverishly” on it and was rehabbed in 2013.

His mother was “very determined, headstrong,” Woda says. “She was strong in her opinions and proud of her family.” He also remembers her attention to professional appearance, for always being well-dressed and getting her hair done every Friday.

Woda’s father died when he was a young teen, and he says his mother resolved to be both mother and father to him and his brother Russell, now a doctor. He felt her guiding hand in all sorts of things, from her strong work ethic to her insistent recommendation he pick a major in college that would lead to a successful career. And that determination extended to helping him get Woda Cooper off the ground (including signing off on his current partner, David Cooper Jr., who was an attorney for the firm) and established as a large-scale developer.

Doris had been a businesswoman in Wheeling for a number of years, running an Italian restaurant, Dorelli’s, named after her and her sister, Ellie, in the Center Market part of Wheeling. Woda was definitely a family firm. Doris’ mother, Veronica Ingold, lived in a Woda development and could be counted on to pass along any problems or concerns at her project. Woda also remembers that she’d been his receptionist. “But only for one day,” he says, not finishing the story.

Up to Snuff

“I would always have to worry about whether this would be up to snuff in grandma’s eyes,” he says, making her in effect an informal quality control officer.

Continuing the family theme, Doris was also a fond grandmother of six, all girls. “Her favorite was the one she was with at the time,” Woda says.

James E. Zambori, Woda Cooper’s director of financial reporting, did a lot of work with Doris over the years and remembered she was present at his initial job interview. After she signed off on him, they worked on the finance end of the business and she was always encouraging him to be aggressive.

“She made a point of trying to get people out of their comfort zones,” agrees Woda.

“Doris had a great sense of humor,” Zambori says. “Her laugh could be contagious. She brought a smile to everyone’s face.”

He also remembers her strong work ethic, showing up for work every day and working late into the evening.

Woda remembers that a key part of Doris’ business philosophy came from a book she read on comedienne Lucille Ball, who started a movie studio (Desilu) with husband Desi Arnaz. Lucy found running a business challenging, requiring expert help. “Always pick the best consultants,” Woda says, quoting his mother. “They make an organization better. She must have said that to me thousands of times as we worked together.”

Although the new project is named The Doris, Woda says his mother didn’t actually like her own name that much and never corrected anyone if they called her Deloris or Dory.

A big crowd gathered for the recent groundbreaking of The Doris on Main, including Rep. David McKinley, Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliot and other elected officials.

The mayor said The Doris “advances several strategic goals of the City Council. First and foremost, by expanding housing opportunities in Downtown, this project will bring more people with more disposable income to a part of our city where we expect to see restaurant and retail growth in the years ahead.”

Boosting a City’s Look

Replacing a parking lot with new residential development will help the city’s aesthetics, the mayor said, and help make a good impression on visitors entering Wheeling.

“My mother loved Wheeling and she would be very proud to know that 46 local families will have new beautiful apartments,” Woda said at the groundbreaking. He noted Woda Cooper has invested more than $60 million in housing in the Wheeling area.

The Doris will be a four-story building with a rooftop terrace and many amenities. “This will be the first rooftop terrace in Wheeling,” Woda points out.

The firm says amenities include “a community room with kitchenette, a fitness center, coffee lounge and theater room. It will include a central elevator and offer one- and two-bedroom apartments with large living spaces and high-quality finishes, including quality cabinetry, luxury vinyl tile flooring and attractive paint colors. The kitchens will be fully equipped with Energy Star appliances including dishwashers.”

The building will be near a number of Downtown attractions, including the Capital Theater, the Heritage Port festival grounds, restaurants and retail.

PNC Bank is the lender and investor on the project. It invested in Opportunity Zone equity financing, and was the lender for the first mortgage, including permanent and construction loans. The bank provided more than $6 million in financing in total.

Woda also notes the financial contribution of the city and the Regional Economic Development Partnership. “Without them and the city, this wouldn’t have occurred,” he says.

General contractor is Woda Construction, Inc. PCI Design Group is the architect. Woda Cooper Companies’ management division will oversee leasing and maintenance.


Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.