114 housing units, retail space planned for Cooper Park area in downtown Dayton

New five-story building would replace little-used parking lot along Second Street, between Jefferson and St. Clair

The city of Dayton has approved an agreement to sell a downtown parking lot near Cooper Park and the Dayton Metro Library to a developer that proposes to create 114 new market-rate apartments and new commercial retail space.

The 1.6-acre surface parking lot is in a part of the city that has seen significant investment in the last seven years, including the revitalization of the nearby Fire Blocks District and the opening of a new downtown library and CareSource office tower.

Downtown Dayton’s apartment occupancy rate remains above 90%, and developers and local leaders believe the downtown housing market still has a lot of room to grow.

“We are passionate about urban revitalization, we believe in Dayton, we have collaborated with (local) leaders over several years to identify the best and highest use for the site, we understand place-making,” said Kirk Marker, president and general counsel with Marker, which is working toward buying the property.

The city of Dayton has approved a purchase and sale agreement for a city-owned surface parking lot at East Second and North St. Clair streets.

Columbus-based developer Marker Development wants to buy the property for $785,000 to build a new five-story, mixed-use building on the site, says a memo from Steven Gondol, Dayton’s director of planning, neighborhoods and development.

The parking lot is used by CareSource, which has an office tower about a block away to the north, at Jefferson and First streets, that opened in the fall of 2019. CareSource has a license agreement with the city for the lot that can be terminated with 180 days notice.

The parking lot once was popular among patrons of an adjacent building that operated as Club Masque, but the nightclub closed in early 2020.

Marker Development says the proposed mixed-use project will help energize the Cooper Park area while advancing the overall vision for downtown.

“Our aim is to enhance the street-life experience, inspire the community to gather, link assets of the greater Cooper Park neighborhood and strengthen downtown vibrancy and economic activity,” said Ryan Freet, director of asset management and development with Marker.

The proposed apartment building would have ground-floor retail space and apartment units on every floor.

The grade-level apartments would have entry and exit points from the sidewalk, which will help with street-level activation, Freet said.

The proposed building design includes a European-style porte cochere entrance that provides pedestrian and vehicular access without sacrificing the aesthetics or frontage of the structure, he said. The development would have 118 parking spaces in the rear of the building.

The proposed redevelopment of the parking lot would help connect the Patterson Boulevard and the Main Street corridors, as well as improve connectivity between RiverScape to the north and the Fire Blocks District immediately south of the property, said John Gower, an urban designer and development planner with the city of Dayton and Citywide.

Gower said the site has been a parking lot for nearly 40 years, but a longtime goal has been to expand the character and sense of place of the Cooper Park area west, toward Main Street.

“This is a real pivotal piece of property,” he said. “This is really critical in finishing up 35 to 40 years of chipping away at building a new neighborhood.”

Downtown Dayton has more than 2,050 market-rate apartments and condos, and there are more than 480 housing units under construction downtown, with 435 additional units in the pipeline, said Jes Sands, marketing and public relations manager for the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

“So far, we have not seen any signs of a slowdown when it comes to interest in downtown living, and demand has remained strong as developers work on projects to meet that demand,” Lewis said. “With the steady and high occupancy rate we’ve seen over the last several years, we believe that the recent additions of downtown housing are beneficial for our community.”

Marker started exploring investing in downtown Dayton in 2018, and the company previously was interested in the former Dayton Daily News site on South Ludlow Street, across from the Dayton Arcade.

Kirk Marker said his company determined that a project at the newspaper site was not feasible, but it then worked on a vision for the St. Clair Street parking lot site for a couple of years.

Marker said the proposed project will be similar to a mixed-use development called Crossline in Columbus’ Weiland Park neighborhood that features 180 apartments and ground floor retail space.

This project would be Marker Development’s first venture in the Dayton market, according to Gondol’s memo.

Marker will have an 18-month due diligence period to decide whether to close on the purchase of the property.

The city is committed to aggressively pursuing redevelopment opportunities in downtown, said Chris Lipson, a senior economic development specialist with the city.

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