As the 1922 portion of the old Dayton Daily News building was being dismantled on Tuesday, a local preservationist questioned how the developer was able to avoid complying with a city Landmarks Commission order to preserve the facade.
“The issue is now what is done about the fact that they basically broke the law,” said Dan Barton, president of Brainwave Historic Preservation Consulting and spokesman for Preservation Dayton Inc.
Steve Papa, a partner in developer Student Suites could not be reached on Tuesday, but in an interview last week said “there was a misunderstanding in the permitting process.”
Student Suites is building an $18 million to $20 million 200-unit student housing project on the corner of Fourth and Ludlow streets in downtown Dayton. The project included demolition of the Schwind Building and all portions of the former Daily News building except the original white-columned 1908 portion. The 1922 facade, designed to look like the original building, was to be preserved under orders from the Landmarks Commission.
The city issued a stop-work order last week after discovering that contractor Steve R. Rauch Inc. was demolishing the 1922 facade. The city reversed itself after determining that the remaining portion had become a public safety threat.
Scott Wells, project manager for Rauch, said the developer and city never told Rauch that the facade was to be saved. He said its foundation is seriously deteriorated and it is not stable enough to stand without a building behind it. Wells said the design for student housing called for a courtyard behind most of the facade.
“If we had been asked to save that facade it would have been a huge change order,” said Wells, estimating that it would have taken about $500,000 to hold it up once the building behind it was torn down.
City staff failed to notice that facade preservation was not written on demolition permits obtained by Rauch, said Aaron Sorrell, director of planning and community development for the city. He said Students Suites officials knew it was to be preserved, but had asked for the city to consider allowing it to be cut down with only the bottom third remaining as a decorative wall. That proposal had not yet gone before the Landmarks Commission.
Sorrell said the city has the ability to seek minor misdemeanor charges against the developer in Dayton Municipal Court — with a penalty of $500 — for the violation. The city can also order the developer to pay a “mitigation fee” that could be “up to 75 percent of the estimated demolition and disposal cost for the violation,” Sorrell said.
He said city officials have not yet discussed that with the developer or legal department.