Old steam plant getting primed for reuse by city

Partial demolition comes after too much steel scrapped from building.

An addition to an old Dayton Power & Light steam plant on East Third Street downtown is being demolished by the city after too much structural steel was scrapped by a previous developer, making the vacant building dangerous.

The city now owns the old steam plant at 617 East Third St., a building once known as The Merc and targeted for years by two local developers as a rehab for residential space.

The multi-million-dollar proposed development never materialized, and the building, which dates to 1912, went into foreclosure. It was the scene of the annual Masquerage party in 2007.

After the foreclosure in October it was passed through the Montgomery County Land Bank to the city.

The city is now open to development proposals, and officials would like to see the rest of the building reused as downtown undergoes a surge in residential projects. Developer Charles Simms is building a brownstone condo project across the alley from the demolition.

On Monday, heavy equipment operators worked to bring the addition and its steel structural girders down. The city’s contract with Charles Jergens Construction puts the demolition cost at $165,000.

Back in 2009, the project seemed promising. Developer Matt Stoermer had the historic tax credits and a vision for The Merc. But on the cusp of the Great Recession, credit and investors both dried up.

At one point, he was looking for a partner to help him. Stoermer’s one-time partner in The Merc, local architect Jeff Wray, died of a heart attack that year. Stoermer couldn’t be reached for comment; there is no listing in the local directory for him.

Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of Planning & Community Development, explained the scrapping that created the hazard this way: “They were scrapping out metal and got excited with it. They took out structural metal, and we are taking care of that.”

Along with the structural metal went old smoke stacks, Sorrell added.

“One of the contractors intentionally or unintentionally cut into framing members. After the building came out of foreclosure, it went to the city and we wanted to eliminate hazards,” Sorrell said.

Further west on East Third are two other large multi-story vacant commercial buildings: the Lotz Paper Building, which is privately owned and remains vacant, and 601 East Third, which is owned by the city.

All the buildings are prime candidates for reuse as residential projects gain momentum downtown, said Amy Wallbridge of the city’s Office of Economic Development.

Jeff Collins, owner of nearby York Electric Inc., said he’s eager to see the property redeveloped.

“I’d love to see something happen there,” he said.

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