Early stages of fairgrounds redevelopment taking shape

The long-anticipated redevelopment of the Montgomery County fairgrounds is starting to take shape, with project officials giving a further glimpse into the site’s future Friday morning.

Any new construction is likely at least a year out from happening, but the early vision shows development starting from the southeast corner of the 38-acre site with University of Dayton and Premier Health looking at being either tenants or owners of some of early the buildings in the district.

There could be opportunities for the University of Dayton Research Institute and Miami Valley Hospital to work together on site at the fairgrounds, like through some kind of partnership on applied research or technology, said Andy Horner, chief financial officer at University of Dayton.

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“UD and Premier are making commitments to each other about being early — depending on how it works out — occupants of those spaces,” Horner said.

The updates on the project came from officials University of Dayton and Premier Health, who own the fairgrounds site. They presented the new details to the I-70/75 Development Association at the group’s meeting at the end of March.

Planning NEXT, the master planning contracted to the project, in January unveiled the early vision for the fairgrounds, which calls for the first phase of development to have about 245 unites of housing, 225,000 square feet of office, 60,000 square feet of retail and four acres of urban agriculture.

As the site is built out, Planning NEXT says the development should have flexible spaces that can transform as the neighborhood expands inward from Main Street. For example, surface parking can be later replaced with multi-story parking structures as the neighborhood becomes more dense.

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Project officials with UD and Premier have repeatedly emphasized that the vision for what could happen is still being formed.

They still want to get other parties involved like private developers and future tenants, and while Premier and UD plan to have money involved, they are going to seek other ways of financing the development.

The renderings and ideas from the project master planner demonstrate what kind of development is feasible and what the community would want to see at the site, but to get to the point of things being built, there will have to be additional committed partners and money.

When coming up with the vision for the site, project officials held focus groups and took comments online to collect a broad database of suggestions that were each reviewed — including one comment that just said “Detroit” and a flood of football enthusiasts suggesting a new UD football field (Which Horner said is not something that will happen).

Some of the feedback that became key pieces of the master plan included housing intended for a mix of incomes, space for urban agriculture, and a walkable design to give a neighborhood feel.

The Montgomery County fairgrounds redevelopment is being planned at the same time that a different high-profile development project is coming together less than two miles down the road to revive the Dayton Arcade.

While UD is partnering with Premier on redeveloping the fairgrounds, the university has also pledged to be a key anchor tenant at the Arcade.

Horner said he sees the two projects as complementary developments, not competing projects.

“We wouldn’t be involved in both projects if we thought they weren’t going to be complementary,” Horner said. “There are limited resources to go around, but we think there’s going to be enough for both to be exceptionally successful and bring additional investment into the Miami Valley.”

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