When Premier Health and the city of Dayton unveiled the next steps for redeveloping the Good Samaritan site and reinvesting in the surrounding neighborhoods, it raised the question of what difference $30 million can make in an area that has reached a tipping point.
The hospital — once an employer of 1,600 on site — is being torn down. About 1 in 4 properties in the surrounding neighborhoods are vacant and 5 percent of the population has left since 2009. About 1 in 4 business establishments were lost in the 45406 zip code between 2008 and 2016 and 17 percent were lost in the 45405 zip code.
At the same time, grassroots community groups are building energy and finding success.
The Gem City Market just started demolition work as they prepare to start construction on a new grocery store along lower Salem Avenue. The Salem Avenue Peace Corridor is working on grassroots neighborhood redevelopment efforts. The new Northwest Library Branch is bringing new possibilities into the neighborhood.
And new Omega Lofts apartments are under construction in the Dayton View Triangle neighborhood, which will be part of a larger Hope Center for Families campus.
The home values surrounding the former hospital are similar to the city as a whole. While population in the census tracts surround the hospital has declined 5 percent over the last decade, the neighborhoods have been more stable than the city as a whole, which lost over 9 percent of its population.
Premier and city officials shared their high hopes for the $30 million when it was first announced last week, saying they hoped to use the money to draw down more public and private funds which could potentially balloon that money to $60 million. The $15 million pledged by Premier is up from its original $10 million promise.
“The additional $5 million when combined with the contributions of other partners will leverage additional dollars to be invested in the local community. We have experienced such before through the Phoenix project and along with our partners have every reason to believe this can happen again,” said Mary Boosalis, CEO of Premier Health.
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Ellen Rice, a 15-year resident of the Dayton View Triangle neighborhood, across Salem Avenue from the hospital, said she’s pleased Premier upped its contribution and is glad the city feels ready to put a number on its commitment as well.
“I think we need to be patient as the city works on enticing potential employers to consider Dayton, and in implementing its various ‘visions,’ among them improving Salem Avenue between downtown and the Good Sam site,” she said.
She said the combination of more jobs and an enhanced city image, not to mention Gem City Market, “should encourage development in our downmarket but conveniently located area.”
“Five Rivers Health is already a great asset to the area – as is the new library, and as someday the shopping center may again be – but when it comes to the northwest, I suspect magic wands are in even shorter supply than deep pockets. It’s going to take time, work, and connections,” Rice said.
The new plan is building on the original Phoenix Project. The Phoenix Project was a partnership between Good Samaritan, the city, CityWide Development, and the neighbors built 33 new homes, provided home improvement loans and down payment assistance, and paid for community police officers, among other projects.
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When these partners started the Phoenix Next initiative after the hospital closed, before seeking specific steps, they wanted to know what the community’s desired outcomes were. These desired outcomes are laid out in the 50-page “Re-use and Investment Vision” shared last week, which distills what the Phoenix Next board learned from the meetings and market research.
Now, Premier is forming a nonprofit called Phoenix Next to lead the initiative, which will have board members that are two community representatives, two city representatives and two Premier representatives.
The recommendations looked at the impact in four layers: on the 13-acre site, in the surrounding neighborhoods within a half mile of the site, in areas beyond the planning area that impact the surrounding neighborhoods, and through programs in the area.
For the 13-acre site, the Phoenix Next organizers want to encourage a mix of uses on the site that complement the surrounding area. The vision recommended market-rate housing, employment-generating uses, some types of medical and wellness, educational, civic or nonprofit, and neighborhood-oriented retail. The plan calls for short-term projects on the site to build momentum like events or pop-up retail.
Building out the 13-acre site is anticipated to happen in phases over the course of at least 10 years.
For the surrounding neighborhood, Phoenix Next wants to build on what’s already working. This includes supporting improvements to the physical condition of blocks around the 13-acre site through homeownership and neighborhood stabilization support programming, conducting walking audits, encouraging some first floor retail, demolishing certain properties, bringing new amenities to the area and reducing vacancy, celebrating the area’s unique history by researching National Register Districts and developing a branding strategy.
Beyond the planning area, Phoenix Next wants to build off the momentum of Gem City Market and the grassroots work of the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor and Salem Avenue Business Association.
For programs, some of the recommendations include maintaining the community police officers funded through the original Phoenix Project on an interim basis, and working with Fairview PreK-6th school on advance generation learning programs.
Karen DeMasi, CityWide vice president of community development, said the $30 million that’s been pledged matters but what’s also important is that the neighborhoods around the site have engaged leadership and they are strong advocates for their community.
“That amount of social capital is really important to rebuilding … People are always more invested in something they had a hand in creating, which is why this whole planning process was pretty deliberate,” DeMasi said.
Kegan Sickels, Dayton View Triangle Federation president, said there’s positive momentum already happening in the area, with the Omega Lofts on track to open this summer, Salem Avenue to get repaved and beautified and the neighborhood looking at becoming a historic district.
“I think this area is going to see a huge revitalization over the next four or five years,” Sickels said.
The Phoenix Next project is also happening amid some community frustration and a blow to moral from the loss of the Good Samaritan.
Tom Bensman, of the Mount Vernon neighborhood, said the loss of the hospital is not something to be easily dismissed. For now, he said neighbors for months have had to drive by the hospital as it is demolished, with no plans to bring back hospital-level medical services.
“We lost health care in this area. So give us some health care. To take that away and go to Five Rivers, that isn’t the same,” Bensman said.
Igor Golovcsenko, who lives in the Mount Vernon neighborhood, recorded a video of testimony in the civil rights suit over the hospital closing and said it’s been a problem for him to have lost the convenience of Good Samaritan Hospital and its ER, where they had his records and doctors.
“Premier is expanding and building everywhere else,” he said.
A resident of 43 years in Mount Vernon, Golovcsenko said he’s seen Salem Avenue take some hits over the years before Good Sam left.
“That was the biggest anchor on Salem Avenue, but there have been other institutions and anchors that have left. There’s been several churches and several businesses, a lower Salem school that’s empty, the former Dayton View Library that’s for sale, Belmont Labs,” he said.
Kenya Baker, community outreach director for the John Moore Sr. Center for Equity, said she wants future plans to not outprice or displace current residents or be a move toward gentrification.
“I hope it is built to accommodate the members of the community that currently reside in the area,” Baker said.
Jule Rastikis, president of the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor, said once there’s a committee in place working on implementing the Phoenix Next goals, it’s important that the community continues to be involved in making recommendations. One of the Salem Avenue Peace Corridor’s projects includes commissioning a market study through Wright State, which at the time showed for a three-mile radius around Salem and Grand avenues, residents spend $300 million on outside goods and services.
“Whoever the decision makers are going to be need to clearly understand the demand for services in this area,” he said.
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