Goodwill launches $11M campus project

Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley’s purchase earlier this week of a former flag shop at 656 S. Main Street paves the way for the agency to launch its $11 million human services center project that neighbors and city officials say will transform the neighborhood just south of downtown Dayton.

Goodwill officials are poised to hire a demolition contractor to tear down the former flag shop and six other former commercial properties nearby, and are soliciting bids from architectural firms to design the service center and its surroundings.

The 80,000-square-foot facility will house the 125 employees who currently work at Goodwill’s Kuntz Road headquarters off Stanley Avenue. Agency officials anticipate creating 50 more jobs during the next five years at the new center. When it opens in late 2014 or early 2015, the human-services center will allow Goodwill Easter Seals to expand its services to the developmentally disabled, elderly and unemployed — services that are in high demand because of the recession and aging population.

The project’s neighbors say they’re looking forward to its completion.

“It’s been kind of a no-man’s land down there,” said Steve Seboldt, chairman of the Downtown Dayton Priority Board, which includes the neighborhood surrounding the Goodwill project. “It’s a big project, and it’s going to inject a little bit of life into that area.”

Goodwill Easter Seals’ primary mission is to assist people with disabilities in a 23-county area to become more independent, although its 40 programs and services also include adult day care for seniors, job training programs for ex-offenders and computer recycling. GESMV employs 1,200 people, about half of whom have a disability of some kind, Goodwill officials said. The agency served more than 13,600 people in 2011, a 12 percent increase from the previous year and twice as many as it served in 2006.

“In the next three to five years, we project that we’ll be serving 20,000 people,” said Steven Goubeaux, Goodwill Easter Seals’ marketing director. “The need is out there for what we do — and that’s why we’re building the new building.”

The project dramatically will alter the landscape on South Main and Warren streets just south of U.S. 35. Buildings slated for demolition include:

• Benham’s Restaurant and Catering at 209 Warren St.;

• Printing Services Co. at 652 S. Main St.;

• The Salvation Army Booth House at 624 S. Main St.;

• A former flag store at 622 S. Main St. at Buckeye St.;

• The flag store’s successor, Creative Banners & Flags at 656 S. Main St. at Lincoln St.;

• Freedom Electric at 700-722 S. Main St.;

• A building that housed doctors’ offices at 724-734 S. Main St.

The former Benham’s property and all of the buildings in the 600 block of South Main are being demolished to make way for the new human services center. Goodwill’s purchase of the Creative Banners property for $400,000 closed just this week (the flag store relocated to Kettering) and represented the final piece of the footprint they were seeking to start the project. Goodwill expects to name a demolition contractor in the coming days.

Goodwill officials say they do not yet have specific plans for the Freedom Electric and former doctor’s office properties in the 700 block of South Main and for other land it owns adjacent to those two properties south of Lincoln Street.

Buying the buildings, tearing them down and remediating the land is expected to cost about $3.15 million, Goodwill Easter Seals officials said. A $2.2 million “Clean Ohio” state grant will pay about 70 percent of those pre-construction costs, with Goodwill putting up $905,000 and neighboring Miami Valley Hospital contributing $47,000.

The remainder of the $11 million project will be paid for by a mixture of public grants, tax credits, private contributions and Goodwill Easter Seal’s own funds, according to agency spokeswoman Kim Bramlage.

Goodwill’s revenues depend heavily on public donations of clothing, household goods and automobiles that are re-sold . The charity derived more than $25 million — or 60 percent of its overall budget of $41 million last year — from retail sales at its thrift shops and auto auctions.

The Dayton City Commission’s approval was necessary before Goodwill could land the $2.2 million state grant, and that came with no dissent in July. Timothy Downs, deputy director of economic development for the city of Dayton, said the Goodwill project will benefit downtown Dayton and the city as a whole. “We expect it to be a catalyst for larger development, and we believe it will strengthen the economy and the community,” Downs said.

Miami Valley Hospital — which owns several properties just south of the Goodwill project — is looking forward to welcoming its new neighbor, and has started discussions with Goodwill officials about programs that the two institutions can collaborate on, according to hospital spokeswoman Nancy Thickel.

In addition, the Goodwill project “will bring a certain vibrancy to that neighborhood,” Thickel said. “We’re looking forward to the revitalization.”

So is Karen Wick-Gagnet, co-owner of Coco’s Bistro, who is poised to relocate her Wayne Avenue restaurant to 250 Warren St. across the street from the Goodwill human services center site.

“Any new development can have a positive impact on nearby businesses, and the fact that Goodwill Easter Seals has such a positive mission and helps those in need makes it that much better,” Wick-Gagnet said.

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