Why this Montgomery County small town is attracting millions in development

The City of Clayton is among Ohio’s safest cities, according to a national group’s new report. CONTRIBUTED.
The City of Clayton is among Ohio’s safest cities, according to a national group’s new report. CONTRIBUTED.

Clayton has grown in popularity with developers, as projects valued in total at $75 million and $100 million could come there in the next five year, according to city leaders.

Over the past 12 months Clayton has seen a number of applications to bringing various developments to the city. While all were not approved, those that have could enhance the growth of the city and bring in millions in investment dollars, said the city’s development director, Jack Kuntz.

Clayton is a small town with about 13,000 residents. About three years before the pandemic, commercial developments were being built on the city’s main roads, including Main Street and Salem Avenue. It has slowed, but the city still has seen about $20 million in commercial investment, Kuntz said.

Since the start of the pandemic the city started to see more developers looking to build single and multi-family residential developments.

“I like to think it’s because we’re pro-development and we’ve done a good job of telling the story of why Clayton is a great place to live and invest in,” Kuntz said. “I believe developers like to be where the city has a clear vision, has great community assets, a good location and the planning/zoning mechanisms that allow for forward thinking projects.”

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The vision for Clayton described in its PLAN Clayton land use document calls for walkable neighborhoods, connected parks and infrastructure, all while keeping its small-town charm. The recommendations stemmed from community meetings with city leaders, residents and business owners.

“It’s very clear that developers want to work with a community that knows exactly what they want, and they follow where other investment is. Right now, there’s a lot of investment in the city of Clayton,” said Kuntz.

Recent applicant, Grand Traditions LLC, had its preliminary plans approved in April to build up to 132 new ranch-style apartments to be constructed on Hoke Road. The final development plans are set to go before council in August.

Developer Brian Jimenez said Clayton was perfect fit for Grand Traditions as the city’s population needed diverse housing options like the single-family ranch homes they have proposed.

“Our target is primarily empty nester residents and that market is underserved right now with ranch style homes,” Jimenez said. “For our demographics in our target market, Clayton to us is an opportunity. It’s a thriving community on the cusp of some good growth.”

Jimenez said it was important for Grand Traditions to choose a city that was forward thinking and focused on the progressing the city.

“When we went before them, they were very supportive of the growth in their community so to us that’s important,” he said. “A lot of preparatory work was done with utilities and roadworks to allow this type of growth to happen.”

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The city has about five residential developments in the process of having final plans approved and two possible applicants that could have preliminary plans approved by the end of the year.

“In the next five years, if all of these developments go through, which they all align perfectly with PLAN Clayton and with our vision for the future, we’re looking at between $75 million and $100 million worth of investment, which is very significant for a city our size,” Kuntz said.

He attributes some of the city’s developmental interests to neighboring communities with logistics and manufacturing job opportunities, the Dayton International Airport, and Northmont City Schools for those with school aged children.

While none of the developments that were approved in the last year will be finished this year, Kuntz estimated that several of them will at least break ground before the year ends.