‘A new identity for Trotwood’: Funk Center essential part of city’s redevelopment strategy



Trotwood city officials hope putting the Funk Center at the redeveloped Salem Mall site will spark redevelopment in the area while it positions itself to become the local destination for fans of the distinctive blend of soul, blues and jazz.

Plans are in motion for the Funk Music Hall of Fame & Exhibition Center to settle in a new home in the Sears building at the former Salem Mall site, located at 5200 Salem Ave.

“We have all this development happening and people believing in Trotwood,” said Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald. “We are really proud here in the city of Trotwood to be able to give the Funk Center a (home). The Sears building will be ideal. There’s parking there and easy accessibility. It’s a positive for all of Montgomery County.”

The Funk Music Hall of Fame, also known as the Funk Center, had to leave its downtown Dayton home in 2019. Construction is planned to begin in 2024 on the multi-use facility as part of the major Sears Redevelopment Project in partnership with the city of Trotwood and Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation (TCIC).


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In 2019, the TCIC, a nonprofit operating as a land bank that conducts economic, community and housing development activities on behalf of and in cooperation with the city of Trotwood, bought the Sears building out of bankruptcy. The original bid was in the $70,000 range but after a legal action was filed from another bidder, the organization ultimately paid $225,000. In spite of the cost, organizers say it was a necessity at the time in order to meet long-term goals.

“We still feel to this day it was one of the best investments we’ve made to get control of the building,” said Chad Downing, TCIC executive director.

“It gives us full control over the 56 acres of the former Salem Mall site,” he said. “We’re doing a lot of the pre-development work behind the scenes right now so we won’t have to do that once we get ready to take action. We will be effectively shovel-ready once we find the right plans.”

Federal funding

In 2022 the TCIC was awarded $2 million through support of U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, towards redevelopment of the Sears building.

Funding is grounded in three key pillars for the site: creating food access such as a food hall; creating small business support services; and creating access for workforce development.

“We are very thankful,” Downing said. “It creates a lot of equity we can put into the deal, allowing us to make this facility what it needs to be. We want to be a catalyst for the local economy and to serve and support the redevelopment of the rest of the mall site that surrounds the building.”

As the TCIC envisioned opportunities for more community growth, Downing noticed a lack of arts and culture within the city, which prompted discussions with Funk Center president and CEO David R. Webb and Trotwood City Manager Quincy Pope Sr.

“Trotwood, like the Greater Dayton region, has history and residents from the funk generation, if you will, such as the Troutmans of Zapp,” he said. “It made sense that this could be a good opportunity to bring our projects together, strengthen the opportunity of success for both of us, and really bring the Funk Center to a place that will be extremely welcomed.”

He also says a roughly $7 million capital campaign will be formulated to secure additional funds. He expects construction to fully begin at the site in fall 2024.

“Some people are anxious to get this rolling but we want this to be an intentional process,” he said. “For us, we want to begin community sessions around many components of the Sears building including the (food) marketplace and the Funk Center.”

Downing was pleased Ohio House Bill 45 recently allotted the Funk Center $100,000 from a previous request.

“We believe this museum will be a destination for many individuals interested in the musical legacy of the Miami Valley and especially for those who love and appreciate funk music,” McDonald added. “It honors the many legends born and raised in Dayton and surrounding areas. So many people believe in this idea. People know this needs to happen, but it definitely takes work.”

Spearheading revitalization

McDonald, serving in her second term as mayor, is excited about Trotwood being on the upswing.

Along Main Street, which she considers the city’s greatest area of renaissance, the West Campus Community Center of Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley is slated to open Feb. 28, the Western Division of the Montgomery County Municipal Court is slated to open March 10, and the Trotwood Senior Lofts, a 50-unit, affordable senior housing development, is under construction.

In addition, Gordon Food Service (GFS) is planning to move from its longtime Salem Avenue location into the former Best Buy site across the street from the RTA Northwest Transit Center.

“We’re working on economic development for our community,” McDonald said. “The Funk Center is going to bring a new identity for Trotwood. For years, all everybody thought of Trotwood was (that) it used to be where the mall was. They talk about all the stuff they used to do when the mall was there. That’s not the thing anymore. We’re going in a new direction.”

She also acknowledges the potential financial boost for Trotwood but believes bringing the Funk Center to the Sears building will have greater cultural benefits.

“We’re going around the area promoting the Funk Center and letting them know how Trotwood is the new Funk Capitol of the World,” Webb said. “We want people to get on board and be a part of this important work for the community, the state and the world.”

“Putting a stamp on music and the arts (in) our community — as far as being a suburb — it’s going to be a real plus for us,” McDonald echoed. “(To) have people come from all around to visit the Funk Center and experience that in Trotwood is going to make a big difference in our community.”