5 things to know about big developer’s newest downtown Dayton project

One of the biggest names in downtown Dayton development has acquired a vacant property on East Third Street that was at the center of multiple failed rehab projects.

Water Street developer Woodard Development has gained control of the old Lotz paper building at 607 E. Third St. in the fast-growing Webster Station neighborhood, which is seeking to become an innovation district.

Woodard Development wants to renovate the five-story building into new “unique” office spaces and possibly ground- and lower-level retail or restaurant space, said Jason Woodard, the firm’s principal.

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Woodard’s projects, including the $100 million Water Street District, have helped make Webster Station one of the hottest neighborhoods in the region for new housing, as well as a dining and entertainment destination.

Here are five things to know Woodard’s newest project and the impact on a thriving part of the urban center.

Innovation district: The new offices Woodard plans to create are expected to appeal to technology and other cutting-edge firms that want to be in a tech hub or "innovation district," officials said. Tech firms already are clustered in the Webster Station neighborhood, which is home to Tech Town and also a variety of design and creative firms. Businesses that rely on young creative professionals need unique and interesting workspaces to attract quality candidates, local development leaders said. The 607 E. Third St. building "oozes personality" with its original wood floors, exposed brick walls and an ornate front facade, Woodard said. The building will be renamed the Avant-Garde. The renovation project should start in the second quarter of the year and wrap up in six to eight months.

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Why offices: Downtown Dayton's housing market has been hot for years, but its office market has been a mixed bag, since there is so much vacant and obsolete commercial product. But though there's a significant number of underutilized and half-empty office buildings in the downtown area, new and renovated office product has done well. The new office building in the Water Street District is fully occupied, and so is a 26,000-square-foot commercial building Woodward bought and renovated at 444 E. 2nd St. Tech Town, which for years struggled to fill its office spaces, now has a 97 percent occupancy rate.

Webster Station: Webster Station was not an overnight success. Over the course of about 40 years, the area saw a significant decline in investment, with some big losses in the 1980s and 1990s. But the construction and opening of Fifth Third Field in 2000 helped lay the foundation of a renaissance. Years later, Tech Town opened and new businesses and housing moved in, with some semi-recent additions including the Dayton Beer Co., Proto BuildBar and Barry Staffing. Investment in the Water Street District has exceeded $100 million and has added almost 350 apartments in the last few years. Fifty-four additional units are under construction and more housing is planned. New restaurants in the neighborhood include Basil's on Market and Lock 27 Brewing. Charles Simms Development constructed 23 new townhouses, called at the Brownstones at 2nd, just north of the Lotz paper building, and the firm is building 14 more homes near Warped Wing called City View.

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What's next: The Water Street developers have purchase options for properties in and around Webster Station, including the 601 E. Third St. building next to the Lotz paper facility. The vacant six-story building in the past has been targeted for housing, but Woodard says at this time he does not have specific plans for the facility and he remains in negotiations to acquire it. Woodard also has a purchase option on land at Deeds Point, located north of the Water Street District, across the Mad River. Woodard and partner Crawford Hoying have purchased the Dayton Supply and Tool building at 507 E. First St., east of the ballpark, with plans to create new housing.

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Opportunities: Some development leaders and Realtors say that downtown still has a big shortage of housing, especially owner-occupied units. Downtown could support 950 new condos, flats and townhouses that are for purchase, according to a study by the Downtown Dayton Partnership. Webster Station still has a variety of empty or underutilized buildings, including some historic structures. Tech Town also has room to grow on vacant land along the Mad River.

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