Port Authority votes to boost Fire Blocks: ‘This project is moving forward’

The Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday to boost the burgeoning Fire Blocks project, approving a capital lease ownership stake in the project that will shield developer Windsor Construction from sales taxes.

Columbus-based Windsor Companies took over what had been a stalled development last summer, looking to reinvigorate commercial and residential work on both sides of Third Street between St. Clair and Jefferson streets.

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Port Authority trustees voted to take essentially an ownership stake in the first phase of the project, which will involve residential and ground-floor commercial development, via ground and capital leases.

The upshot is that Windsor will be protected from sales taxes on construction materials, thanks to the agreement.

Once the Port Authority has a leasehold interest in the project site, it will lease the project back to Windsor.

“It’s another confirmation that this project is moving forward,” said Jerry Brunswick, the Port Authority’s executive director.

Several years ago, the Ellway Group acquired properties in the district — called the “Fire Blocks” because of a fire in the area during the Great Flood of 1913 — and unveiled ambitious plans for what they said then would be a $100 million mixed-use development.

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The Ellway Group obtained about $4.5 in state historic tax credits to help fund the renovation of the Elks Building (100 E. Third St.) and the Huffman Block building (111-129 E. Third St.).

But there were delays, missed deadlines and other problems with the project.

Windsor Cos. took over and will be able to hold onto the state historic tax credits, principals said.

Brunswick noted that if one goes by the area today, one can see a construction chute where work is happening. Said Brunswick, “That’s always a good sign.”

The first phase of the project — involving two buildings at the southeast corner of Third and Jefferson — will center on about 100,000 square feet of residential development and 31,000 square feet of mostly ground-floor retail development, Brunswick said.

The full project will involve about 450,000 square feet of development in all, he said.

“This project has legs,” Brunswick told trustees during a year-end meeting at the Corner Kitchen restaurant in the Oregon District. “This project has financial merit.”

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