Mendelson’s sale sets stage for $100M downtown project

With the purchase of the eight-story Mendelson’s outlet building and an adjoining property on First Street, the new owner said the stage is set for what could be $100 million development.

Crawford Hoying paid $7.8 million for the two buildings — one that takes up an entire city block — and a parking lot on East First Street across from Fifth Third Field, property records show

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“It’s another addition to our ongoing project there, so we’re pretty excited about it,” said Brent Crawford, a principal at Dublin-based Crawford Hoying.

Crawford Hoying has a notable recent history in Dayton, as part of the force behind the successful Water Street commercial development along the Great Miami River, in partnership with local developer Jason Woodard.

Woodard confirmed Wednesday that he will be involved in this latest development, as well. The new purchase will put Crawford- and Woodard-developed properties in place on all sides of Fifth Third Field.

Crawford said it’s early in the process for what they plan on doing with the properties, and simply planning for the development could take four to six months.

“Obviously, the sheer size of the building provides for a lot of opportunity,” he said. “So certainly, whether it be housing, office, restaurant and parking — it will … probably all play a possibility there.”

This could be a “game changer” for downtown, especially considering the buyer, said Steve Seboldt, a downtown resident, Realtor and member of the Downtown Priority Board.

“We see it as being a pretty transformative and substantial development, but it’s certainly going to take us some additional time because of the complexities of what’s there,” Crawford said.

Sandy Mendelson, 76, said the time was right to sell and Crawford Hoying was the right buyer. Mendelson said he “brought them (Crawford Hoying) here from Columbus” four years ago to look at his buildings. He also sold the building that became Delco Lofts to the firm.

“I just think it’s a group we can depend on,” Mendelson said. “If they say it’s raining outside, put a raincoat on. They don’t play games.”

“I wanted to sell to someone who would do the right thing for Dayton, because Dayton has meant a lot to me,” he added.

He’s also had praise for Woodard. “He’s a shaker and a baker.”

Mendelson has been a well-known downtown Dayton dealer of surplus goods for decades. He has been careful about commenting on overtures made for his properties in recent years, but he told the Dayton Daily News in 2017: “If someone wants to come to talk with me, I’ll talk.”

He bought the two buildings in 1980, and he still owns many properties in and around Dayton.

Mendelson said he has one year to wind down his surplus goods business. He expects to donate many goods to charities and to new businesses.

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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said investments years ago to create RiverScape MetroPark and bring minor league baseball to the city with the construction of Fifth Third Field continue to pay off in the northeast quadrant of downtown.

Crawford Hoying has decided to take a risk on a very large property because the developer has seen Dayton’s potential and has had a good experience with projects in the city, such as Delco Lofts across First Street, Whaley said.

“This is a developer who knows Dayton and has had great success in Dayton, so we’re very excited about this,” Whaley said.

Crawford Hoying and Woodard Development are among the leading developers in the city.

Together, they have built a new hotel, office building, hundreds of new apartments and are close to bringing more online at the Centerfield Flats.

The sale and planned redevelopment of the Mendelson properties rivals the magnitude of the Dayton Arcade rehabilitation, said Seboldt, the downtown Realtor.

The first phase of the arcade project, focused on the southern section of buildings, is an estimated $90 million project.

Seboldt said that part of downtown, called Webster Station, could use more housing, offices and amenities, like an urban grocery store or complement to the nearby 2nd Street Market.

Mendelsons has a large and eclectic selection of products, everything from holiday decorations to food to commercial kitchen equipment to old electronic components.

Mendelsons is in the business of buying and selling surplus items. The company’s slogan is “The first place to look for every last thing.”

Over the years, Mendelsons sold thousands of surplus bookcases, hundreds of thousands of pounds of paper and countless other goods.

Mendelsons, which was established in 1960, has more than 1 million square feet of warehouse space and dock facilities.

The company moved to its current warehouse in 1981.

On Wednesday, clearance signs hung throughout the business advertising half off prices.

Customers told this newspaper they are disappointed to lose such a unique business.

Meranda Campbell, 28, said that until Wednesday she had never been to Mendelsons before, despite living in Dayton her entire life.

Campbell said she heard about the business but always assumed mostly it sold tools and machinery parts.

Campbell was pleasantly surprised to learn Mendelsons has a wide variety of household and consumer products. She purchased some clothing at prices she believes are hard to beat.

“I found a lot of really cool stuff for my kids for really cheap,” she said.

Campbell said she will try to make sure to come back before the outlet closes to scoop up more cheap goods.

Mendelsons’ products are similar to thrift stores or Goodwill, but the selection is much larger, said Christopher Hadding, 48, who is staying in Dayton.

Hadding purchased bicycle mirrors for $1 each, which he says cost 10 to 15 times as much at other stores.

“I am a money-pinching fool,” he said. “It’s amazing you can walk through here and see stuff you wouldn’t see in a regular store.”