Centre City wins $5M in credits again, but will this go-around be different?

Previous attempts to renovate building at Fourth and Main in downtown Dayton have failed

The Centre City building in downtown Dayton once again has been awarded $5 million in state historic preservation tax credits, but the big question is whether the new developers’ project can succeed where multiple other attempts to renovate the property have failed.

The Model Group and Cross Street Partners plan to purchase the building, and both have strong track records of restoring large, historic properties, including the Dayton Arcade, located just across Main Street.

“The difference today is the momentum that has been created with the transformation of the Arcade directly across the street from the United Brethren/Centre City Building,” said Lasserre Bradley III, president of development with The Model Group.

The 21-story officer tower at 40 S. Main Street, also called the United Brethen Publishing House, has been vacant since 2012, and since then multiple owners have proposed rehabbing the property.

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But after previously winning millions of dollars worth of state historic preservation tax incentives, the current and previous owners ultimately had to forfeit the credits two times after their proposed adaptive-reuse projects failed to make substantial progress and did not satisfy important program benchmarks.

But the Ohio Department of Development on Wednesday announced that it has awarded $5 million in state historic tax credits in support of a $74 million project to convert the building into 200 apartments and office space.

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The current owner is 40 S Main LLC, but Model Group LLC would be the future owner, developer and manager of the property, says the state historic tax credit application.

Model Group, based in Cincinnati, is one of the partners on the Dayton Arcade project, and the firm is behind some notable and celebrated adaptive-reuse projects in Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills and other parts of Cincinnati.

Bradley says the Model Group and Cross Street Partners are partnering together to purchase the Centre City building. Cross Street Partners is the lead developer on the Arcade project.

Bradley said the state historic tax credit award is a key piece of financing, but the project team is still awaiting approval on a few additional funding sources.

The Model Group wants to continue to be involved in downtown Dayton’s renaissance, and the firm has won and made good use of state historic tax credits on some of its previous revitalization projects, Bradley said.

Bradley also said this time around there are additional state resources for transformative projects and blight remediation and removal.

The project will create a “character-filled, mixed-use showplace, including the creation of 200 housing units and over 53,000 square feet of commercial space,” the application states.

The Centre City building is four separate but connected buildings that were constructed between 1903 and 1924 at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main streets.

The commercial space will be on the first, second and third floor, the application states, and Model Group expects this project will result in about 200 permanent jobs in the neighborhood.

The new housing units will be priced to appeal to a broad market, and they will be primarily targeted as workforce housing, Bradley said.

“With accessibility to jobs downtown, as well as adjacent access to the RTA transit hub, this is an ideal location for an active, connected lifestyle in downtown Dayton,” he said.

The Centre City building is in bad shape and needs lots of work. Late last year, the city of Dayton approved spending as much as $2.5 million to help make repairs to the office tower to stabilize it and protect the public.

The façade was crumbling and pieces of the building were falling into the street. Fencing and scaffolding was put up to protect pedestrians from falling materials.

The renovation of the Centre City building would be another step forward for efforts to transform the surrounding nine-block area, which has been dubbed “The Nine.”

The Dayton Arcade, which has been brought back to life after sitting dormant for three decades, is located just west of the Centre City building.

Just south, across Fourth Street, is the Levitt Pavilion Dayton, a free music venue that opened in 2018, activating and completely transforming a seldom-used park.

The Dayton Convention Center is in the block south of Levitt Pavilion, and the nearly 50-year-old facility will undergo more than $30 million in improvements to make it more appealing to visitors and groups that need event space.

The proposed Centre City building project provides ample opportunities for storefront activation and ground floor vibrancy on an important corner in downtown, said Amy Walbridge, Dayton’s downtown development coordinator.

“Investment by the Model Group and the community in the Centre City Building will capitalize on the surge in demand for urban living in the United States,” she said.

The surrounding collection of architecturally rich buildings creates a sense of place that appeals to talented, creative, engaged and entrepreneurial people of all ages, Walbridge said.

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