Dayton hotel sale worries some leaders

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The sale of the Crowne Plaza hotel has some leaders worried that it could lose hotel rooms important to the Dayton Convention Center.

Local business, tourism and elected leaders have long said it is imperative to have hundreds of good-quality hotel rooms a short distance from the Dayton Convention Center.

But the sale of the former Crowne Plaza hotel, which is attached to the convention center, raised questions about whether it might lose rooms since the new owner proposed converting some of its hotel product into affordable housing for veterans.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw said the Crowne Plaza property is entirely the wrong place to put the kind of housing under consideration, and studies and research have concluded that the convention center needs first-rate hotel product attached and nearby.

“I along with the mayor have been working with the business community ... to talk about this and everyone has said it’s not good for the city, it’s not good for downtown and it’s certainly not good for the convention center,” he said.

The Radisson Hotel, the former Crowne Plaza, at 33 E. Fifth St., across the street from the Dayton Convention Center. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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The Radisson Hotel, the former Crowne Plaza, at 33 E. Fifth St., across the street from the Dayton Convention Center. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Other officials say they have talked with the new ownership and hope its plans for the hotel property are compatible with efforts to remake and boost interest in the convention center.

“The CFA has had positive engagement with the new owners and shared our vision for the center and convention ‘district,’ which they are very receptive to and have committed to a high-quality hotel product,” said Pam Plageman, executive director of the Montgomery County Convention Facilities Authority (CFA).

The Crowne Plaza hotel at 33 E. Fifth St. sold last spring for $13.1 million to LW Dayton V LLC and rebranded as the Radisson Hotel.

The Radisson Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza, at 33 E. Fifth St. The new owners have proposed converting some of the property into affordable housing for veterans. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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The Radisson Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza, at 33 E. Fifth St. The new owners have proposed converting some of the property into affordable housing for veterans. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Miami-based Veteran Services USA and Lockwood Asset Management announced they spent $225 million acquiring 10 hotels, including the Crowne Plaza.

The groups said they want to redesign and convert their newly acquired properties into “mixed-use destinations” that include affordable housing for veterans 55 and over who live on a fixed income.

“We are creating a mixed-use, urban model, which reduces isolation for aging veterans and answers a growing need for senior day care services,” Eddie Dovner, principal at Veteran Services USA, said in a press release.

Veteran Services USA declined to comment for this article, but information on its website suggests the Dayton property could be a mix of limited-service hotel product and housing, possibly 118 units.

The website lists a completion date of late 2022.

The Radisson Hotel, the former Crowne Plaza, at 33 E. Fifth St., across the street from the Dayton Convention Center. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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The Radisson Hotel, the former Crowne Plaza, at 33 E. Fifth St., across the street from the Dayton Convention Center. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The former Crowne Plaza building has 13 stories and more than 280 rooms and connects via a skywalk to the Dayton Convention Center, located across the street at 22 E. Fifth St.

Convention center attendees prefer to stay in a hotel adjacent to their destination or within a three-block walk, which is why every hotel room near the facility is important, said Jacquelyn Powell, president and CEO Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Right now, the Radisson Hotel is the only hotel near the convention center, she said, and its supply of rooms often is insufficient to meet the needs of businesses and other groups that potentially could book the center for their events.

Commissioner Shaw said veteran housing might make sense in other parts of the city, but not in the heart of a revitalized downtown, next to or near new attractions and amenities that support tourism, generate activities and bring people into the center city, like the Levitt Pavilion Dayton and the Dayton Arcade.

The hotel property needs to remain a hotel and also needs upgrades to become a four-star product, said Shaw, who was the chair of a task force that studied the convention center and came up with recommendations for improvements.

Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw at Wednesday's city commission meeting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw at Wednesday's city commission meeting. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Millions of dollars will be invested in the convention center to give it a long-overdue makeover, as part of a multi-year and multi-phase renovation project that will be funded with a new lodgings tax.

Dayton and Montgomery County also effectively ended veteran homelessness years ago, Shaw said, and the new ownership did not reach out to stakeholders to find out if this proposed model was right for or needed at this location.

The Convention Facilities Authority would like to have more than 400 hotel rooms attached to the center or within a three-block radius, said Plageman.

Groups seeking to book meetings, conferences and other events want a quality hotel nearby, she said.

Plageman said she thinks the new owners of the hotel property are considering creating a small amount of residential housing that will be completely separate from the hotel accommodations.

She said their first priority seems to be making immediate improvements to the hotel. She said these rooms are important, but new product is needed.

Two other downtown hotels are in development on the 100 block of North Main Street and the 400 block of East First Street in the Water Street District.

The team developing the Dayton Arcade also has proposed converting some of the space in the northern section of the massive complex into hotel product.

A strong partnership between the convention center and the Radisson Hotel would give both places the best opportunity for economic success, said Chris Kershner, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

Kershner said the chamber has met with the new hotel owners and it hopes to see good things happen at the property.

“This hotel location is critical to downtown and the region,” he said.