Hospital parking to affect fairgrounds, neighbors

This summer, the hospital hopes to add 89 employee parking spots at South Main and Vine streets, plus 24 parking spaces for contractors and 85 spaces for employees at Foraker Avenue and Warren Street, a total of 198 parking spaces. The cost is projected to be $900,000.

The hospital has been leasing 600 parking spaces at the fairgrounds at a cost of $184,800 annually, but opted not to renew that three-year lease, which ends in December. That will cost the Montgomery County Agricultural Society — better known as the fair board — a fourth of its revenue. The fair board had revenue of $739,000 in 2010, said Dan Bullen, the fair board’s executive secretary-treasurer.

“It took us by surprise,” Bullen said of the hospital’s decision not to renew the lease.

The fair board has had to turn down some events during the week due to a lack of available parking, Bullen said. The hospital’s decision will free up parking and allow the fairgrounds to host more events during the week, but Bullen acknowledged that likely won’t be enough to compensate for the loss of income from the hospital parking lease, the fair board’s second-largest source of income after the county fair.

“There are definitely going to have to be some changes in expenses,” though no decisions have been made, Bullen said.

On weekdays, the fairgrounds has largely been a parking lot, but starting next year can be more fully used by community groups, said Don Michael, fair board president. Organizations with smaller budgets could consider holding events at the fairgrounds as a less expensive alternative to the Dayton Convention Center, he said.

“I think this is the place for the fairgrounds, and that’s probably where it’s going to stay,” Michael said. “We’re going to be part of the gateway to Dayton.”

More parking riles some homeowners

The hospital’s decision to pursue more parking has been driven in part by a desire to free up parking spots closest to the hospital for patients and their families, said Emile “Buddy” LaChance, the hospital’s director of real estate and campus planning. The hospital campus has about 3,700 parking spaces.

LaChance said the two new parking lots — which still must receive conditional use permits from the city — would also reduce the amount of employee parking on residential streets in neighborhoods near the hospital.

But Janet Michaelis, whose family owns four houses on Vine Street near the planned parking lots, doesn’t think they’re in the best interest of the neighborhood north of the hospital, known as MidPark. She feels the hospital’s presence has put the neighborhood in limbo, fueling speculation and discouraging improvements to its older housing stock.

“When a large institution starts changing the zoning in a residential area, it makes it very difficult for people to imagine that anything else can happen there besides a takeover,” Michaelis said.

Ken Clarkston, chaplain and director of Gospel Mission Inc., 64 Burns Ave., said the neighborhood has considerable potential, but said the hospital’s proposed parking presence would be “splotchy.”

“For the neighborhood’s sake, it’s not the best use of the property,” he said.

LaChance said the hospital has not been actively seeking out properties in MidPark, though he acknowledged it bought two properties there after being approached by the property owners.

“We’re perfectly content to allow it to become what it wants to be as far as a residential neighborhood,” he said.

LaChance also noted the hospital has underwritten the cost of two police officers who patrol the neighborhoods around the hospital, including MidPark.

“We’ve done things we think are significant to creating a safe and attractive environment for everyone who lives around the hospital,” LaChance said.

Not all neighbors have been unhappy with the hospital’s presence.

“We find that the hospital is a good neighbor,” said Peter Bracher, who lives in the Fairgrounds neighborhood south of the hospital, which has a clearly defined boundary with the hospital.

“The problem on the north side of the hospital is there is no clear understanding of a boundary for the hospital campus,” he said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-7457 or bsutherly@Dayton

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