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Public gives input on future of fairgrounds

More housing, new restaurants, a grocery store and a wedding venue in the historic Roundhouse were among the hundreds of ideas for redeveloping the Montgomery County Fairgrounds that residents submitted tonight to Premier Health and the University of Dayton.

About 300 people gathered at the former Montgomery County Fairgrounds this evening to share their input for the two organizations to consider when they make a plan for the 38-acre site.

RELATED: Firm envisions fairgrounds with neighborhood vibe

Premier Health and University of Dayton are in the beginning stages of drawing up the development plan for the former fairgrounds just south of downtown Dayton, which they bought in April.

Premier Health CEO Mary Boosalis told attendees the timing for the project is good because it will build on the momentum of other developments happening around the city.

“Let’s dream big. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” she said.

About 300 people attended small group discussions at the workshop and each table of attendees came up with prioritized lists of what they would like to see happen at the property.

UD President Eric Spina said the input from the public will be an important part of shaping the best plan for the site, which is now a blank slate.

RELATED: Fairgrounds finds new home in Jefferson Twp.

“We want people to feel they’ve been heard and we want good ideas,” Spina said.

The planning process will be led by Columbus-based Planning NEXT. While the developers don’t have project specifics at this point, officials said they want the future development to be a safe, walkable environment that can help attract new businesses and young people.

Planning NEXT will take the input from tonight’s meeting and draft a development plan in December. The firm is aiming to have another public workshop in January to show how they translated the community feedback and in February present a plan.

A common theme to the lists was an emphasis on finding a good way to preserving the large Roundhouse at the site that dates back to 1874.

In one group discussion, Alison Kerlin said the developers could renovate the Roundhouse into a large reception venue for events like weddings.

RELATED: Expert says saving old fairgrounds Roundhouse ‘preserves who we are’

“There’s a lot of competition for event venues but not any of them are unique as the roundhouse,” Kerlin said.

“And the roundhouse is great because it does preserve that Dayton feel. So it’s not just another Greene or an Easton Town Center,” said Joe Meyers.

Amy Lee, a resident of the South Park neighborhood who was in attendance at the meeting, said whatever is built at the site should be built to benefit the whole community, like with a mix of affordable and market rate housing.

“It has to be something that obviously makes economic sense, but this used to be public land and should be developed to serve some type of public purpose as well,” Lee said.

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