Wanted: Developers ready to make use of historic Dayton VA buildings

Wedding chapels, restaurants, scenic photo sites are some of the possibilities

The Dayton Veterans Affairs campus is inviting private-sector partners and developers to repurpose historic buildings on the center’s 400-acre West Dayton campus.

Possible uses include anything that serves veterans and the nearby National Cemetery or complements those missions and people in West Dayton.

The possible benefits businesses might see are long-term leases on a well-known and well maintained campus for up to 99 years.

“It’s not really about the money. It’s about the preservation of the property,” said Mark Murdock, Dayton VA director.

The center is inviting local developers and organizations to explore the possibilities through an “enhanced lease” program, a way for the federal government to fund construction and development on federal property.

The program has a track record. The Dayton campus off West Third Street is already home to five such leases, serving veterans transitioning from homelessness and more.

Volunteers of America, Miami Valley Housing Opportunities and St. Mary’s Development operate those leases today.

The 400-acre campus has a history stretching back to 1867, taking on the post-Civil War mission of caring for veterans.

A great place to ‘live, work and heal’

What’s available for developers today? Seven campus buildings — including two chapels, a police station and a 9,425-square-foot, four-story former amusement hall with a bowling alley and a basement — are offered for possible enhanced use leases.

The campus had a child care center for about 30 years, operated by Catholic Social Services, Murdock noted.

The Catholic chapel could be marketed and developed as a possible business, possibly for weddings and funeral services, he said.

Other buildings could serve even as restaurants. “It could be the full gamut,” Murdock said.

“It’s a great place for people to live, work and heal,” he said. “And we want it to continue to be a campus that people enjoy.”

Two chapels have a place close to the national cemetery mission. And pictures and special events at the campus grotto could be a “great possibility,” Murdock also said.

Any development will be overseen by the State Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., Murdock said. The General Services Administration, also in D.C., is conducting a general feasibility study, possibly to completed in September, he said.

The effort will require a measure of patience, Murdock agreed.

“The key thing is, yes, we have to go through all of our due diligence processes,” he said.

But that should be expected with historic properties, he also said. Murdock pointed to the Arcade project in downtown Dayton, which took years to happen.

He acknowledged that if the VA and its partners perform their due diligence and find no acceptable development use, it may have to take down some of the historic buildings.

A YouTube video outlining the possibilities has been sent to local organizations for their consideration. For more information, those interested are invited to call the VA center’s engineering department at (937) 262-2121.

“We’ve had some developers that had knocked on our door,” Murdock said.

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