A year later, Dayton housing project moves forward

Credit: CORNELUS FROLIK / STAFF

Renderings of new apartments in Dayton. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: CORNELUS FROLIK / STAFF

A local developer has received city approval for a new apartment project in the Grafton Hill neighborhood after nearly a year of work, a previous denial and considerable back-and-forth with neighbors and the city’s planning staff and board members.

Dayton commissioners approved a planned development and rezoning request that paves the way for 56 new apartments located along the 600 block of West Grand Avenue, in buildings that were once used as an illegal hotel.

Developer David Lemberg, president of Rebuilding Ohio, said obtaining approval was a long and difficult process, but persistence paid off and his housing project will benefit generations to come.

“I was never going to quit on this project,” he said. “It’s something that just has so much potential, not just for project itself, but also for the whole surrounding neighborhood.”

Rendering of new apartments in Grafton Hill. CONTRIBUTED

But Lemberg said it shouldn’t have taken a year to get to this point.

He said some neighbors weren’t going to be satisfied with his plans no matter how much he tried to address their concerns. He said many developers could not have waited as long as he did to move the project forward.

The Dayton City Commission recently approved a zoning change and planned development for multiple properties, including two vacant apartment buildings at 633 and 645 W. Grand Ave.

The buildings have been vacant for years, after they were shut down for operating as an illegal hotel/motel.

Lemberg said he plans to spend more than $1 million improving the properties with new security cameras, fencing, green space, common areas, parking, amenities and an outdoor grilling area.

A rendering of grilling area in new apartment development. CONTRIBUTED

The current apartments will be gutted and reconfigured and will receive new cabinets, bathtubs, vinyl flooring, stainless steel appliances and wall-mounted vanities, he said.

The development will offer a mix of one-, two- and three bedroom units.

Demo work has started at the site, and landscaping is getting underway, but the final site plan still requires Dayton Plan Board approval, Lemberg said.

Lemberg submitted his original planned development request in November 2019.

Months later, the Plan Board rejected the request after hearing from opponents who live in the neighborhood.

Board members agreed with criticism that said the project had too many unanswered questions and unresolved issues.

Lemberg revised and re-submitted his plans after acquiring nearby properties, which will allow for additional parking and other site improvements.

Rendering of interior of planned new apartments. CONTRIBUTED

Lemberg’s project narrowly avoided a second rejection by the Plan Board. But after further discussion and requiring the final plan to return for review, members voted unanimously to recommend approval.

Opponents said they think the developer cannot deliver on his promises and won’t be able to keep the property up to code.

Some neighbors, neighborhood association leaders and Plan Board members said the buildings are obsolete and feel the housing density and parking situation is inappropriate for the area.

But other neighbors say the project is a welcome addition.

Loren Nelson, who lives next door on Grand Avenue, said the large, empty apartment structures are a blight on the neighborhood and invite criminal and nuisance activities.

Nelson spoke highly of Lemberg and his vision for the site. Some Plan Board members said Dayton has many vacant buildings that need to be reused, and this plan accomplishes that.

Rendering of inside of new Grafton Hill apartments. CONTRIBUTED

Lemberg said he hopes critics of the project will be won over when it’s finished. He said construction could take three to six months.

Lemberg said his project is the highest and best use of these “beautiful” buildings.

The nearby Grandview Hospital needs more housing for its staff, and the neighborhood needs more high-quality apartments, he said.

But Lemberg said he thinks it is unfair that some people wanted to hold him accountable for the mistakes of a previous owner.

He also said some neighbors were never really interested in being partners to help improve his plans.

Instead, they would prefer the buildings be torn down and turned into an empty grass field, he said.

Some real estate developers aren’t looking for properties in places like Grafton Hill because the process is too long and cumbersome, making it risky or not worth their time, he said.

“When looking at projects, it’s definitely something you need to take into account,” he said. “What is the neighborhood like? Are they welcoming to developers, or are they anti-development?”

A rendering of the bathrooms of the new Grafton Hill apartments. CONTRIBUTED

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