Hospital closing a blow, but officials say Good Sam site has promise

Mayor Nan Whaley: ‘Everything should be on the table’

When Good Samaritan Hospital closes sometime this year, there’s little hope a replacement will swoop in and employ anywhere close to the 1,600 people who work there now.

But local development leaders say there is a lot to like about the hospital site, including its size, large parking garage and location along Dayton’s heavily traveled northwestern gateway, which has benefited from tens of millions of dollars in investment since the mid-2000s.

The Salem Avenue property could be a good fit for health care services, officials say, because of the need left by the hospital closing and the primary and specialty care medical center that will stay open across the street.

Other suggestions include senior housing, a large box store or a mixed-use development that offers shopping and amenities that are sorely lacking in the area.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley charged last week that Premier Health, which owns Good Samaritan, wasn’t truthful about its plans in the months before its shocking announcement that it would close a hospital that had served the community for more than eight decades. She urged Premier officials to listen to the community now, even if it means sparing some buildings from the bulldozer.

“I think everything should be on the table for discussion instead of Premier telling the community what they are going to do,” Whaley said.

She said decisions made now could impact Dayton for the next 50 to 100 years.

Crushing setback

As a community anchor, Good Samaritan Hospital will be virtually impossible to replace, Dayton officials said. The area surrounding it has shown some signs of stability and renewal — a beautiful new library is a short distance away — but the economic challenges are both difficult and numerous.

In the Fairview Neighborhood, where the hospital is located, about one in four properties with structures are vacant.

Residential property values in some nearby neighborhoods have tumbled, including in College Hill, a tight neighborhood of nice homes and tree-lined streets where values declined by 12 percent in the most recent auditor update.

Many empty or abandoned homes and commercial properties line the Salem Avenue corridor, and a couple of major retailers in or near Dayton’s northwestern quadrant have shut down in recent years.

Notable losses include the Elder-Beerman store at the Northwest Plaza, located a couple blocks north of Good Sam. It closed in 2012 and remains vacant.

Two years later, the Target store near the intersection of Salem Avenue and Shiloh Springs Road in Trotwood, which had served Dayton’s northwestern neighborhoods, shut its doors.

‘We must do a better job’

Officials say a public-private partnership akin to the Phoenix Project could be the model for what happens with the site. Since targeting the neighborhoods around Good Sam 14 years ago, the various partners in the project — CityWide, Good Sam, the city of Dayton and others — have invested about $125 million, building low-income, single-family homes in the area, a spray park, pool and playground, and the $11.5 million Northwest Branch Library.

Dilapidated homes and buildings along Salem Avenue have been removed and infrastructure and streetscaping have been upgraded. Some of the blight has been replaced with green and community spaces.

The business disinvestment along the Salem Avenue corridor goes back decades, according to Larry Ramey, president of the Salem Avenue Business Association, but that doesn’t have to be the narrative going forward.

“We must do a better job of making potential businesses and organizations aware of the tremendous market opportunities that are here,” he said.

Steve Budd, the former president of CityWide Development, said many residents who live near Good Samaritan Hospital have significant buying power and disposable income but are left with limited shopping and restaurant options beyond the variety of fast-food restaurants and small retailers along Salem Avenue.

The area could use a signature box store along the lines of Trader Joe’s, Budd said, along with more sit-down restaurants and an anchor store that could draw other commercial investment.

Any mixed development on the Good Sam site, however, should include medical services, Budd said, because of the reduced access to health care many people who depended on the hospital will soon feel.

‘It’s going to take some time’

The Good Sam property is promising because of its geography, multi-million-dollar parking garage and the resources Premier has committed to the redeveloping it, said Phil Parker, president and CEO of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce.

The site can support considerable density, particularly if the multi-story parking garage remains intact, said Dave Dickerson, Dayton market president for the Miller-Valentine Group, a local developer.

Achieving density often is a challenge in urban areas, because developers can expect to spend as much as $15,000 to $20,000 per parking spot, Dickerson said.

“That (parking) really helps with the marketability,” he said.

Dickerson said redevelopment plans could address a variety of community needs, ticking off a list that might include health care, education, job training, senior housing or senior care services.

But, he cautioned, it won’t happen overnight.

“Is this a no-brainer? No — it’s going to take some time and effort and it probably will end up being some sort of private-public partnership in order to move forward,” he said.

‘It will put us in a pinch’

Not everyone is convinced the future of the area is all that bright.

The closing of Good Sam will hurt neighborhood property values and could lead to other business closures, said Mark Donelson, who owns seven residential and commercial properties along Salem Avenue.

Donelson said he doubts major commercial development can be lured to the site, considering how long the nearby Miracle Lane shopping center has sat vacant.

The closing, he said, “is going to hurt the community as a whole because we no longer have those goods and services in that area and it will put us in a pinch in terms of health care.”

‘A different type of opportunity’

Premier told the Dayton Daily News it will provide $10 million in seed money for redevelopment and will work with the city and others to determine how to best engage community members and stakeholders.

Premier plans to raze everything on the main campus property except for the free-standing parking garage, which could be demolished later if needed, Premier said. The Five Rivers Family Health Center, which sits across the street, will remain in operation.

Large, contiguous properties like Good Sam’s that also sit at a major intersection — in this case, Philadelphia Drive and Salem Avenue — can be hard to find in urban areas, said Tony Kroeger, city of Dayton planner.

Unlike large industrial sites, the hospital property will not need to be remediated, which is often a formidable redevelopment hurdle and cost prohibitive, Kroeger said.

If Premier makes the site “shovel ready,” it will greatly improve its chances of attracting new investment, Kroeger said.

“Typically, we have brownfields elsewhere in the city, so this is a different type of opportunity,” he said.

Budd, who lives about four blocks from Good Sam in the College Hill neighborhood, credited Premier with pledging seed money and committing to hiring the firm, planning NEXT, to help re-imagine and repurpose the site.

That commitment could go a long way toward making something positive happen there, Budd said.

“If they don’t do that — I would say lights out,” he said.