Groups want to 'change narrative’ about West Dayton

Multiple economic development officials and local residents say they want to change a false narrative about West Dayton that suggests the area is in hopeless decline.

They say West Dayton has more investment going on than most people realize, including some under-the-radar projects to create new housing, jobs, economic activity and sense of place.

“There are things happening, and they’re not happening by accident, because we have a strong team of people and organizations that are actively driving investment to this geography,” said Kiya Patrick, vice president of strategic development with Greater Dayton Premier Management (GDPM).

GDPM, the local public housing authority, has received a $30,000 predevelopment grant to begin environmental and design work at the former Day-Mont Behavioral Health Care site.

The mental health care provider, at 1520 Germantown St., shut its doors last year.

GDPM wants to knock down the former mental health facility to build new subsidized housing on the site, which would be the first phase of redeveloping the DeSoto Bass housing project, Patrick said.

Day-Mont is several blocks from DeSoto Bass, which is the oldest and largest housing project in GDPM’s real estate portfolio, with 352 units.

GDPM may seek low-income tax credit funds in early 2021 for the project, which could create about 60 new units, Patrick said.

If the project moves forward, GDPM hopes to relocate some DeSoto Bass residents to the new apartments and demolish the units they vacate, Patrick said.

Additionally, she said, the Day-Mont property and adjacent land potentially could support additional phases of housing.

GDPM says the city of Dayton, which owns the property, hopefully would donate the 25,000-square-foot building and land.

Patrick said construction on the housing likely wouldn’t start any earlier than the second quarter of 2022.

Just north of DeSoto Bass is a property being targeted for redevelopment as part of project codenamed “Project Nemo."

Project Nemo is a local company’s $11 million expansion plan for vacant land at 2100 McCall Street, west of South James H. McGee Boulevard, city officials said.

The project could bring 100 to 150 new jobs.

The city plans to partner with workforce development agencies to ensure residents in the immediate area are hired for some of these positions, said Veronica Morris, the city’s West Dayton development coordinator.

“A lot of those jobs are work-ready jobs, which means those are jobs that assist people in re-entering into the workforce as well as potentially creating a career path," she said.

The proposed new facility, at the former NIBCO site, could be about 50,000 square feet.

Another redevelopment project could be headed to the former McCall printing property, just north of the NIBCO site across McCall Street.

The McCall printing property at 2333 McCall St. contains a large warehouse and industrial building, offering about 348,000 square feet of space.

Wisconsin-based Phoenix Inventors purchased the site several years ago, with plans to renovate the building and attract a tenant.

A company has shown interest in the site, Morris said, and the city is working with the property owner to try to reach a deal that hopefully would bring new jobs and investment.

Morris expects a deal for the NIBCO site could be reached by the end of the year, possibly sooner.

She said the printing plant project is still early in the redevelopment process.

Place-making efforts also have helped changed the look and feel of Germantown Street, which is a highly traveled corridor that is the northern border of DeSoto Bass.

About 10 colorful street banners have been installed along Germantown Street, which is the first phase of a larger project to rebrand and tell the stories of west side neighborhoods, said Caitlin Jacob, planner community organizer with CityWide.

The banners were designed with community input, Jacob said, and they celebrate and honor local leaders and residents and share words of inspiration.

Two local artists created the banners, which hang from Greater Dayton RTA poles.

During community meetings, residents said they wanted to change negative perceptions about their community and reclaim the narrative of the west side, officials said.

Also, new lighting, community murals and signs saying West Dayton also have been installed.

LED lights have gone in at the underpass at Germantown and Broadway streets and decorative lights have been installed along James H. McGee Boulevard.

More than $1.4 million has been spent on upgrades using federal Choice Grant dollars and “leveraged” funds, including from private sources.

“We’ve been working in the neighborhoods surrounding Germantown for the last couple of years,” Jacob said.

Choice money and leveraged funds also will help pay for homeowner improvements, business façade upgrades and building restoration projects.

Rebuilding Together and County Corp are working to complete 66 home renovations and one cleanup in the Miami Chapel and Edgemont neighborhoods at a cost of nearly $440,000, officials said.

About five businesses along Germantown Street will benefit from exterior/façade improvements, and GDPM also purchased an old record store it plans to rehabilitate. The agency would like to repurpose the property to house mental health and social services.

Morris said it’s time to “change the narrative” about what’s happening in West Dayton, because years of work is paying off and the area is making progress.

“Things are happening, and it is exciting, and people are taking notice,” she said. “And it’s not gentrification, and it’s not us trying to move poor people or Black people out.”

She said the redevelopment efforts are deliberate, thoughtful and already making a difference.

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