Can downtown Dayton rebirth spread west? Developers ready to spend millions

Developers say they want to spend millions of dollars revamping two properties on West Fifth Street, an area they hope will become a lot more like the street’s lively eastern blocks.

The first block of West Fifth Street has a vacant medical office tower and a former furniture store that potentially can become new retail, restaurants, offices and housing, developers say.

Downtown’s revitalization is real and spreading, said Dan Mayer, a principal and partner with Columbus-based Triad Architects, and new investments in West Fifth Street would connect Sinclair Community College to the Levitt Pavilion Dayton and the Oregon District. Triad Architects owns a property at 18 W. Fifth St.

“It’s about how does Fifth become the connector?” he said. “The Oregon District is the perfect model of sustainability and viability for the community — it’s about how does Fifth become part of that conversation?”

MORE: Downtown Dayton Chess Club building sells. ‘Good things’ coming.

The first block of West Fifth Street is home to several businesses, including the Dayton Chess Clubthe Tri-College Bookstore, the Spaghetti Warehouse and Third Perk Coffeehouse & Wine Bar.

But there’s also some empty storefronts and underutilized, vacant and deteriorating buildings.

Triad Architects has purchased 18 W. Fifth St., which is a three-story property that is home to the Dayton Chess Club. The chess club occupies the first floor and basement.

Triad Architects is still developing plans for the property, but some initial ideas are for a restaurant or food provider in the first floor of the building and possibly offices or residential units on the upper floors, Mayer said.

Hopefully, Mayer said, a food service tenant will move in that caters to the crowds flocking to the Levitt Pavilion Dayton, an outdoor amphitheater that opened this summer in Dave Hall Plaza at Fifth and Main streets.

The Chess Club recently signed a one-year extension on its lease and hopefully will be able to remain in the building, Mayer said.

Triad is likely to pursue state historic tax credits in early 2019 for a project to create new ground-floor commercial space and maybe offices or housing upstairs, Mayer said.

The 18 W. Fifth St. building, constructed in the 1920s, was known as the Reed Furniture Co. and Steffen Bros. building. The building has a terracotta facade and was built with concrete, with large pillars inside.

Downtown Dayton right now is experiencing a resurgence because years of work and planning are finally paying off, Mayer said.

Dayton is a lot like what Columbus, Cleveland or Cincinnati were in the early 2000s, before their downtowns really got going and became flourishing activity centers, Mayer said.

Downtown Dayton has strong pockets of growth and redevelopment, especially in some eastern sections of the urban core, but some parts like West Fifth Street still need more reactivation, he said.

Some recent and planned projects are expected to help the southwestern section of downtown.

The Levitt Pavilion in its inaugural season this year brought 25,000 people to a previously underutilized space, the much-anticipated Dayton Arcade renovation could kick off later this year and a new free downtown shuttle service gets rolling next month.

MORE: Downtown Dayton will get free shuttles

The Levitt is right around the corner from the Reed furniture building, the arcade is one block north and the free shuttles will have stops very close by.

The development that’s coming — like the Dayton Arcade and the Fire Blocks on East Third Street — is improving walkability and strengthening connections in the urban core, said Scott Murphy, vice president of economic development with the Downtown Dayton Partnership

There’s also a chance that the empty Fidelity Medical Building, at the corner of West Fifth and South Main streets, can be revived.

The owner of the Fidelity building recently applied for about $4.1 million in state historic tax credits. The Fidelity building was the only Dayton project to submit an application in the fall funding round.

The proposal is to convert the 12-story building into about 94 residential units and office or retail on the ground floor, according to the owner’s application from the last state funding round.

Karim Haber, the owner of the Fidelity Building, requested the same amount of tax credits in previous funding rounds but was denied. Haber did not immediately return a request for comment.

The estimated $20.5 million project would resuscitate a building that has been empty since 2009 and was once used as doctors’ and medical offices.

In the 1980s, it was home to the WROU-FM radio station, whose logo remains on the front and side of the structure.

MORE: What’s in store for downtown Dayton’s Fidelity building?

But there are reasons to temper expectations.

State historic tax incentives have helped transform some of Dayton’s empty buildings into popular new living and amenities, like the Delco Lofts, Wheelhouse Lofts and Steam Plant Dayton.

But some recipients have squandered their tax credit awards.

Haber previously owned the Centre City building, which is a 21-story structure one block north of the Fidelity building. He obtained $2.9 million in state historic tax credits for a project to rehab the structure. But he ended up forfeiting the credits because the project didn’t materialize.

The current group that owns the Centre City building is at risk of losing millions of dollars in credits it was awarded for a project that so far hasn’t made noticeable progress.

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