‘Big things on the horizon’ for Dayton, downtown

City says many key projects, including Arcade, will reshape Dayton for decades.

At first glance, it looked like Dayton’s commercial building permit values plunged in 2019 after two huge years.

Builders, architects and developers last year took out permits for an estimated $147.3 million worth of commercial projects in the city, according to data from Dayton’s building department. That was down $137 million from the city’s estimated 2018 total.

But city officials on Friday said they now believe the 2017 and 2018 estimates actually were significantly inflated, because mechanical, electrical and other work was double counted in those figures.

If that’s the case, commercial building permit values still probably decreased last year — but by a much smaller amount than the initial numbers suggest, said Ford Weber, Dayton’s director of economic development.

The city, however, clearly benefited from plenty of new investment last year, and values alone don’t tell the whole story, according to economic development officials and leaders.

“We continue to see a high volume of new construction in the city of Dayton and a strong economy,” Weber said during a budget workshop last month.

MORE: 2018 was super hot year for new commercial projects in Dayton

Building values fluctuate, and a one-year drop would not mean that the tremendous growth in and around downtown and in some other parts of the city slowed, especially considering the ongoing work on some major projects and some new, large projects in the pipeline, officials said.

”There certainly are some big projects and big things on the horizon for downtown,” said Scott Murphy, vice president of economic development for the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

The city issued 404 commercial building permits last year for projects estimated to be worth about $147.3 million, according to city data. That was in line with some recent years.

Between 2014 and 2016, the city issued between 365 and 409 permits each year for projects with combined annual values of between $121.4 million and $150.5 million, city data show.

But numbers the next two years raised eyebrows: City data indicated permits were pulled for commercial building projects estimated at $216.7 million in 2017 and $284.4 million in 2018.

Weber now says those numbers likely are much higher than they should have been, because other values were lumped in that didn’t belong.

“We found out that we had been double counting the value of some of the mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems that are in the commercial projects,” Weber said.

Weber said it is very likely that 2019 saw only a modest decrease in commercial project values. He said 2019 definitely was a very good year for development, and the numbers should show that when corrected.

MORE: 32 businesses said ‘yes’ to downtown Dayton in 2018. Here’s the list.

Murphy said building permits certainly are a measure of projects and economic activity.

But he said projects have long development cycles, and the year permits are taken out don’t necessarily reflect when construction activities really get going.

The Dayton Arcade, for instance, obtained multiple building permits in 2018, including one for a $20.8 million project, another for a $5 million project and another for a $2 million project.

But major construction on the arcade didn’t really get underway in earnest in 2019, and much of the work actually will take place this year.

“In terms of the actual investment and dollar spend, a lot of that was in 2019 and a lot of that will be in 2020,” Murphy said.

It’s also worth noting there was an uptick in permits, but the projects just weren’t as big. There were about 39 projects valued at $1 million or more.

Local officials also say smaller projects are important and impactful and can drastically change neighborhoods with things like new restaurants, brew pubs, amenities, housing and offices.

According to Weber, redevelopment interest in Dayton remains strong.

He said the city of Dayton had 32 site-selector inquiries last year, which was fairly steady, compared to prior years.

“It’s been a pretty good number for a couple of years, as we’ve seen a robust economy,” Weber told city commissioners.

Some of the largest projects last year came from companies and institutions that also have made major investments in other recent years.

NorthPoint Development obtained a permit for a $14 million project to construct a two-story factory and warehouse building at 10601 Dog Leg Road.

The firm has built a handful of new facilities at the airport that have been juggernauts in job growth, adding more than 2,000 private-sector workers in 2019 alone, airport officials said.

NorthPoint constructed two new facilities that opened last year for companies Chewy and Crocs, and the developer is working to build and open more buildings.

MORE: Crocs opens new North American distribution center in Dayton

Levin Porter Architects took out a permit for a $6.1 million project to remodel the University of Dayton's music/theatre building. The firm also took out a permit for a nearly $2.4 million project to build a new first floor addition to the UD Kettering Labs building.

Spurred by a 167% increase in computer science majors at the university in the last decade, UD’s board of trustees approved a complete transformation of the former music and theatre building into a home for the growing computer science department, university officials said.

The renovation of the first floor and basement of the music/theatre building and Kettering Labs annex will create additional academic, lab and office space in August, primarily for the department of computer science, university officials said.

MORE: Major Dayton-area developments expected to come online in 2020

Another large permit was from the group developing the Dayton ArcadeMODA4 Design took out a permit for a $5.5 million renovation of the McCrory building to help create a new innovation hub.

The first phase of the arcade project will cost more than $90 million will lead to new housing, offices, retail, restaurants and public spaces.

Champlin Architecture's Dayton office was busy last year. The firm acquired a permit for a $4 million project to remodel the second floor of a Dayton Children's hospital building.

The firm also received a pair of permits for more than $5.4 million of work on OneFifteen's new treatment center for people with opioid addiction.

OneFifteen has opened two of the six facilities planned for its new addiction recovery campus, located in the Carillon neighborhood on Dayton's west side.

MORE: Google-affiliate rehab campus in Dayton is unveiled

These projects will provide healing spaces to improve the Dayton community’s physical and mental health, said David Glover, principal of Champlin Architecture.

Glover said new investment activity levels in Dayton remained very strong last year, and there will be a lot more new investment and growth in 2020 and beyond.

“We are in the middle of a ‘rebirth’ of the Gem City and the amount of recent reinvestment by the historical institutions in Dayton as well as commitments by new investors to the region surpasses anything we’ve seen in the last 30-plus years,” he said.

The resurgence of cities and the demand for urban living and the urban lifestyle has longevity, and investment interest in the greater downtown area remains very strong, Murphy said.

Dayton has some massive projects in the pipeline, such as the planned renovation and reuse of the Mendelson’s liquidation outlet building, which was purchased by one of the Water Street developers.

The transformation of that building into new uses could exceed $100 million — rivaling the investment in the Dayton Arcade.

Dayton commercial building permits

2019: 407 permits, $147.3M value

About the Author