NEW DETAILS: Early vision for former fairgrounds released

An early look at the vision for the future of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds shows features could include mixed-income housing, public spaces like plazas and the Roundhouse as a focal point.

The preliminary vision was shared Thursday night by Premier Health and University of Dayton, showing an early glimpse of how the health system and university could transform the 38-acre site just south of downtown Dayton.

The project could bring jobs and businesses to a new hub within the city limits of Dayton, with the potential to fight the gravity of other popular suburban developments like The Greene in Beavercreek and Austin Landing in Miamisburg, as well as other regions.

RELATED: Fairgrounds finds new home in Jefferson Twp.

ExploreLISA POWELL / STAFF Staff Writer

Project officials said at the presentation Thursday night that they want the future development to be an inclusive neighborhood, a sustainable design and an innovative space for businesses and entrepreneurs.

“Talent has opportunities to live anywhere they want. Companies have the opportunities to go anywhere they want … opportunities are not the issue here. The question is, do you have a place that can compete,” said Kevin Hively, with Ninigret Partners, a consulting firm on the fairgrounds planning team.

Officials with Columbus-based Planning NEXT, the design firm leading the master plan, said they want the project to be unique, work with local businesses and add to the region, not just help shuffle businesses and people around.

After receiving more than 1,300 ideas for what to do with the property, Planning NEXT said the project leaders are so far picturing housing that caters to a mix of incomes, streets in a grid pattern, public spaces like plazas and green space, retention of the Roundhouse as a focal point, active sidewalks and places for people, institutional and office uses, retail aimed at serving the neighborhood and creative urban agriculture.

It’s still early to talk about final plans and concrete timelines. Before starting the multi-year phased development, UD and Premier Health will need to complete the planning process, which they expect to do this spring, and then will move on to the next phase, including getting financing and finding partners and investors to lead the development.

RELATED: UD President: ‘We are not going to build a new arena’ at fairgrounds

The proposed plan for the site, which officials repeatedly emphasized was preliminary, depicted four acres of urban agriculture, 245 units of housing, 225,000 square feet of institutional and office space and 60,000 square feet of retail and active space. The design also showed 1,400 plus parking spaces.

The design called for development to start from Main Street and work its way inward from the edges.

Depending on what comes together for financing and partners for the first phase, it could perhaps be as much as 565 housing unites, 85,000 square feet of retail space, and 350,000 square feet. The long term idea shows the project building out from the edges to add even more housing, retail and office space as well as structured parking.

Mary Boosalis, Premier Health president and CEO, said Premier would consider itself to be a property owner but would be still looking for an outside partner for the development.

RELATED: Premier Health to close Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton

The goal is for the site to be a 24-hour place where people “live, work, learn and play,” that Premier and UD help enable, but the organizations won’t be the executors of everything at the site.

“There is a great deal of excitement about where we are,” Eric F. Spina, University of Dayton president, said. “The overall direction and thrust identified by planning NEXT feel authentic and right for the site and for Dayton. We’re beginning to see the shape of a place that’s unique and like no other in the region.”

Boosalis said “We know the proper development of the site for long-term regional impact will require support and investment from a variety of sources that see opportunities in the involvement of a leading health system and leading university on a site across the street from Miami Valley Hospital, a block from UD and less than a mile from downtown.”

The fairgrounds is across the street from Miami Valley Hospital and near University of Dayton and could be a place where the research interests of the University connect with Premier Health’s interest in applied technology.

“We found there’s a development type missing from the region and the region risks losing certain kinds of jobs in emerging, creative, tech-based companies because we don’t have the kind of setting they’re looking for,” Jamie Greene, Planning NEXT principal, said. “There is a demand for places where people can live closer to where there are jobs in research, technology and innovation.”

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