Dayton to spend $294k to clean up downtown site

The city of Dayton will spend $294,500 to finish demolishing and cleaning up a downtown property that formerly housed the Dayton Daily News operations, in the hope of setting the stage for its redevelopment.

The city has hired Bladecutters Inc. to work on the nearly 2-acre site at Fourth and Ludlow streets. Demolition on the site of the former newspaper building was halted in 2013 and the property has been stuck in limbo after efforts faltered by the property’s new owner to build an apartment housing project.

The Dayton commission earlier this year authorized the city to buy most of the land in a deal that would get it transferred from the failed developers, Student Suites Dayton LLC. The sale has not been finalized.

The city wants to make the property “development ready” to speed up its return to productive use and make it possible for people to use the sidewalks around it again, said Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

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Several development firms have expressed interest in the site. One of the redevelopment concepts under consideration is a housing complex.

“We felt like we needed to get this moving so we could get this site in better condition prior to winter,” Sorrell said. “It’s been languishing.”

An historic 1908 building at the corner remains, but other parts of the building were demolished.

Bladecutters has been hired to repair the foundation wall of the historic structure and backfill the rest of the property, Sorrell said.

The property now contains a large hole in the ground from the former building’s basement and foundation.

The project will help the city avoid any more delays to either market the site or to issue a request for proposals to attract new developers and investment, Sorrell said.

The solicitation for proposals could be completed in a few months. But the steps the city may take after that point will depend on whether or the city buys the property.

In August, Dayton commissioners authorized the city to spend about $450,000 to purchase most of the site, excluding the historic building. But the deal is not done.

Bladecutters will repair and rebuild the sidewalks on Ludlow and Fourth street so they can reopen for pedestrian use, Sorrell said.

The city did not want to wait any longer to rebuild the sidewalks and address the issues at the site, he said.

Dayton inspectors recently declared the property a nuisance, which gives crews the authority to fix the problem, even though it is privately owned.

Demolition activities will depend on the weather but could take a matter of weeks to complete, Sorrell said.

Student Suites Dayton LLC is a Missouri-based firm that wanted to build new housing on the site geared toward students and young adults.

Student Suites hired demolition contractor Steve R. Rauch Inc. to remove the newer portions of the newspaper property.

Rauch has sued Student Suites for unpaid demolition fees and was supposed to receive the property as part of a settlement agreement.

That title transfer has yet to happen. The city has sent Rauch a contract to buy the property, but if it cannot acquire the land, a lien will be placed on it for the cost of the demolition work, Sorrell said.

The property is in a part of downtown that city officials hope is on the cusp of a major transition.

Developers want to revitalize the Dayton Arcade, which is across Ludlow Street from the demolished buildings. The 1969 Grant Deneau Tower is across Ludlow Street and is being considered for redevelopment. An outdoor music amphitheater, the Levitt Pavilion Dayton, is planned for one block away at Fourth and Main streets. The property is also close to Sinclair Community College, and some developers have eyed its students as a possible untapped market for apartment housing.

“It has great opportunity because of its closeness to Sinclair and over 20,000 students who are there,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Developers who have inquired about the site include Annex Student Living in Indianapolis, Simshabs Capital Partners in New York and Geo CRE, a local land brokerage and site selection firm.

“I think that it’s moving toward productive use, but I don’t want to go through another winter with it not being a clean site,” Whaley said. “It’s a square block in downtown Dayton, and I think it effects the investment all around the city.”