A century-old idea to redevelop the Montgomery County Fairgrounds broke new ground and made history Friday when the University of Dayton and Premier Health finalized the purchase of the 38-acre site.
The sale starts the countdown for when the property will break from its agricultural past and embark on a new path, which local officials hope will reshape the southern part of Dayton and bring new jobs and investment.
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University and hospital system officials say they do not have specific plans for the site, but insist the redevelopment will be thoughtful, deliberate and community-minded.
“We’re going to do this right, we’re going to do this in a way that matters to the city and that supports both of our institutions,” UD President Eric Spina told Dayton city commissioners this week.
The fairgrounds purchase was inked Friday to limited fanfare, about four months after UD and Premier announced their plans to acquire the South Main Street site.
The purchase price was $15 million, of which UD and Premier will each pay $5.25 million.
Montgomery County is giving the institutions $2 million to restore and reuse the historic roundhouse.
The Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority is contributing a $2.5 million state grant to revitalization efforts.
This moment was years in the making and took lots of work, and there were multiple times when the obstacles seemed too big to overcome, said Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley.
“There was a point when I felt like we gave this thing our best shot, and it just was not the time to do it,” Foley said. “Sometimes, I guess you have to go through some difficulties with projects to get to the right outcome, and I feel like we got there.”
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The end result couldn’t be sweeter, Foley said, because UD and Premier are anchor institutions that have already remade the areas around their campuses in remarkable ways.
Earlier this week, Montgomery County commissioners approved a resolution authorizing actions necessary to the transfer the property.
The university’s and hospital system’s redevelopment plans hopefully will continue to grow jobs and convince companies and employers in that corridor to expand, Foley said.
“I trust them and I think they’re good at this stuff,” Foley said. “They have done a great job in that part of the community.”
Also, the relocation of the Montgomery County Fair to Arthur O. Fisher Park in Jefferson Twp. will be a $15 million investment that reverberates through that community and West Dayton, Foley said.
On Thursday, more than 100 people packed the Jefferson High School gym to hear plans for the new fairgrounds.
Deborah Ogletree, a Jefferson Twp. resident, the fairgrounds could benefit the township, which she referred to as a dying community, but she still had concerns about the move.
“I live on Dayton-Liberty Road,” she said. “I’m concerned about the amount of traffic that’s going to come up and down those roads.”
Jefferson Twp. Administrator Steven Woolf said the community needs to support the move.
“If you want Jefferson Township to come back and to protect it from losing anything else, we all have to do this together,” Woolf said.
At the current grounds, UD and Premier will work together “do something that is helpful to our two institutions, but also is true to what the city needs there and what the neighborhood would like,” said President Spina.
The hospital system and UD likely will bring in an urban planner to help determine the institutions’ and the community’s “hopes, dreams and aspirations” for the site, Spina said.
The agreement says the purchasers desire to create a mixed-use/commercial redevelopment. UD and Premier have a major interest in assuring compatible, high-quality uses of the property.