Trotwood group plans to convert vacant Sears building into business hub. Here’s what’s next

Project is part of comprehensive redevelopment goals for former Salem Mall site

TROTWOOD — The Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation has big redevelopment goals for the former Salem Mall site, including first transforming the vacant Sears building into a business hub to provide long-needed resources to the community.

On Saturday, April 9, from noon to 6 p.m., the TCIC is hosting an event at the former Salem Mall site, 5200 Salem Ave., to promote the project and gather community feedback.

“We’re excited to see the feedback from residents, and we’ve received a lot of a great ideas, which we’re going to try to work into the project,” TCIC Executive Director Chad Downing said. “Our biggest hope is that residents know that this is something we’re designing for them, and the project will be stronger in the long run the more the community supports it.”

In spring of 2021, the TCIC applied for Congressional Project Funding and was recently awarded $2 million to go toward the estimated $16 million Sears building project.

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The application focused on three components for the Sears site, Downing said:

** Food access, which will involve the creation of a local produce market;

** Entrepreneurship support, to provide space and wrap around services for the city’s small business and entrepreneur community;

** Workforce development opportunities to meet job needs for regional businesses and area residents.

Food access piece

“The real emphasis is on how we strengthen our local food system,” Downing said, noting the growing food desert in the area.

Downing said the proposed market would be located in the former auto center of the Sears building, and will allow residents to purchase produce and food products from area gardeners and farmers.

The TCIC also has been working with a class of University of Dayton engineering students to design a hydroponics system with an educational community kitchen and market.

Hydroponics involves growing crops and other plants in mineral solutions rather than soil. The project is getting technical assistance from Cross Creek Hydroponics, according to Downing, with the hope to provide this technology as a tool to local entrepreneurs, including farmers.

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Business/job angles

Downing said as part of the entrepreneur support and space component of the project, the TCIC is looking to provide things like vendor space, co-working concepts, and utility space.

“We’re looking to advance our small business and entrepreneurial community to get them the resources they need to be successful,” he said.

The workforce development component may include opportunities for residents to receive certification and skills training, Downing said.

“We’re seeing an increased attraction in companies looking to the greater Dayton area, and with our work with the industrial park, we want to highlight Trotwood’s workforce,” Downing said. “There are so many changing demands for the workforce from employers, so we want to create some of these opportunities for area residents to get that up-skilling that they need.”

Funding and timing

The $16 million price tag is for a full redevelopment of the former Sears property, and does not include development of the 55-acre former Salem Mall site. However, Downing said the former mall site will be redeveloped in the future, with planning for that area to begin soon.

For the Sears project, the TCIC will also seek funding from additional sources, such as historic tax credits, potential funding through JobsOhio, and Property Assessed Clean Energy financing, which can be used for projects that feature renewable energy improvements.

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Downing said the goal is for construction to begin in the next 12 to 18 months, though the exact start date depends largely on when the funding is received.

“While the (Congressional Project Funding) money has been voted on and appropriated, we aren’t quite certain of the time frame for the rule-making process of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which the money needs to go through in order to get to us,” Downing said.

Community input

In the meantime, the TCIC is continuing to collect community feedback, preparing and finalizing plans, and working to secure the additional funding.

Downing said the Aprili 9 event will be one of multiple opportunities for residents to get involved.

Residents can stay up to date on the project’s progress, and be informed about upcoming community engagement and feedback events or surveys, by visiting www.trotwoodcic.org/redevelopsalemmall.

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