UD can tear down trees for art center, Dayton plan board overruled

The University of Dayton’s proposal to build a new $40 million dollar performing arts center at the corner of  South Main and East Stewart Streets was denied by the Dayton Plan Board. UD’s proposed development plan would remove five mature Gingko trees that the plan board said should remain. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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The University of Dayton’s proposal to build a new $40 million dollar performing arts center at the corner of South Main and East Stewart Streets was denied by the Dayton Plan Board. UD’s proposed development plan would remove five mature Gingko trees that the plan board said should remain. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

University to build $40M performing arts center, cut down 5 Ginkgo trees, but also plans to plant 56 new trees.

University of Dayton can build a new $40 million performing arts center and cut down five mature Ginkgo trees in the process, now that the Dayton city commission has overruled the city plan board’s decision.

UD has repeatedly sought approval for a plan to remove mature Ginkgo trees that line the site at Main and Stewart streets as part of the proposed project.

ExploreNew details emerge about UD’s proposed arts center

The city commission unanimously approved UD’s request Wednesday morning.

Plan Board members had said UD had ample opportunity to revise its art center plans since 2019, which is when the board first said only one of the five mature trees could be cut down, but the university instead made the same request multiple times.

UD project officials said they looked at modifying the plan but determined it was not reasonable based on all the work that went into their development. They also plan to plant 56 new trees of different sizes and species.

Mark Thurnauer, the project architect who works for Champlin Architecture, said they’ve calculated that the new trees within 10 years will basically match that existing canopy coverage of the site.

“I think we will all expect to see that this project will be in place ... for generations and will eventually flourish far beyond that,” Thurnauer said.

The arts center is planned at the corner of Main and Stewart streets, on a site now mostly empty.

ExplorePlan Board denies UD’s $40M arts center plan, citing tree concerns

The arts center is expected to have a concert hall with platform performance area, an experimental black-box theater, a TV studio, art gallery and an audio production lab and studio. A band practice field that acts as an “outdoor classroom” will remain.

When the Dayton Plan Board denied UD’s request in July, Greg Scott, chair of the Dayton Plan Board, had called it troubling that UD kept coming back with the same request over and over.

“To me, we already told them in November 2019 that we had to have an alternative landscaping plan. We told them very clearly that four of those five trees were to remain,” Scott said.

Before the city commission approved the arts center, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she thinks one of the things that happened on this project is a lack of communication, and since UD is an important partner to the city, she said it would be good going forward to have better communication.

“We don’t want you all to go through this, we don’t want Plan Board to go through this, we don’t want the city manager and all of us to go through this. This could be much smoother and I think staff recognizes that,” Whaley said.

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