Downtown Dayton housing: 370 units in pipeline

A half-a-decade-long apartment boom in downtown Dayton shows no signs of cooling off as vacancy rates remain extremely low and developers are doubling down on their investments in residential product.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership estimates that 367 new market-rate apartments are in the works in the downtown core that are expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

This includes new rental units being developed in the Fire Blocks District, the rapidly growing Water Street District and an area in the early stages of transformation called Oregon East.

New units in the urban center fill up fast, and research suggests there’s still room for growth, especially since downtown’s apartment market has maintained a 97 to 98 percent occupancy rate even as new product comes online, said Scott Murphy, vice president of economic development with the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

“Not only have the new units been filled quickly, but the existing housing supply has stayed full,” Murphy said. “We think there is plenty of demand to take advantage of what is in the pipeline, and we think there’s a lot more that could be added above that.”

MORE: Surge of new apartments available in Dayton area

Between 2015 and 2018, developers opened about 460 new market-rate apartments in the urban core, according to data from the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

This represented a marked change from the preceding decade, when no new market-rate apartments were created downtown, the data show.

The Water Street District has been the main driver of new rental housing in the core, accounting for almost 88 percent of all new market-rate units since 2005.

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The Water Street Flats opened 215 apartments starting at the end of 2015 and then added another 54 units within a couple of years.

The Water Street District added another 133 new units with the rehab of a large commercial building next to Fifth Third Field, called the Delco Lofts.

Water Street is 100 percent leased, except for typical monthly turnover, said Brent Crawford, principal and founder of Crawford Hoying, which is developing Water Street in partnership with Woodard Development.

The developers are nearly finished constructing another new housing project on the eastern end of the Dayton Dragons ballpark, called the Centerfield Flats.

The 112-unit building is expected to open in mid- to late-November, and pre-leasing started several months ago and has been very strong, Crawford said.

MORE: Great views of ballpark: New apartments coming to downtown Dayton

The Centerfield Flats will have 75 units with one bedroom; 27 units with two bedrooms; and 10 units with three bedrooms.

One-bedroom units, offering between 532 to 782 square feet, start at $800 per month.

Two bedrooms range in size from 998 to 1,296 square feet, while three bedrooms are 1,717 square feet. The largest units will cost $2,475 per month. Apartment prices generally have been climbing downtown.

A major housing announcement occurred earlier this month when Kentucky-developer Weyland Ventures revealed its plans to build 153 new apartments on the former Garden Station site, just north of the firm's Wheelhouse Lofts development at East Fourth Street and Wayne Avenue.

The new, four-story building will be called The 503 and will provide loft-style units, expected to range in size from roughly about 500 to 1,000 square feet.

Weyland Ventures starts with small investments in neighborhoods to verify there is a market for new development, which happened with the quick leasing up of the 40 units in the Wheelhouse Lofts, said Lee Weyland, the firm’s director of business development.

Weyland Ventures’ next phase of projects is a more substantial investment that will really start to reshape that area into a new, vibrant and dense urban neighborhood called Oregon East, Weyland said.

“We believe in Dayton,” he said. “We are developers with a long-term vision. We think of Oregon East in terms of decades — not years.”

Weyland Ventures hopes to close on the financing for the project by the end of the year and break ground shortly after that. The construction could take 16 to 18 months, meaning units could open in the second quarter of 2021.

MORE: Q&A with developer Charlie Simms: Pioneering downtown’s housing trend

New apartments also are under construction on the 100 block of East Third Street in the Fire Blocks District.

Prior property owners and development groups have talked for years about bringing new housing and other uses to the mostly vacant block. But Columbus-based developer Windsor Companies is actually making progress toward that goal and hopes to open units later this year.

Windsor is constructing about 68 "luxury" urban lofts in the vacant Huffman block building, and 20 apartments in the Elks Lofts building across the street, according to the Fire Blocks website.

Apartments in the district are expected to rent for between $700 per month for studios and about $1,800 for two-bedroom units. Units may offer between 600 to 1,300 square feet of space.

Like Water Street and Oregon East, Windsor Companies wants to make the Fire Blocks its own walkable, mixed-use district, with amenities such as new restaurants and an axe-throwing and activities bar. Water Street's amenities include Lock 27 Brewing and Basil's on Market, and a new restaurant will open in the Centerfield Flats called the Local Cantina.

An eclectic group of people of all ages and ethnicities live in the downtown apartments in the Water Street District, and the area very much has a community feel, said Diane Ewing, who lives in the Water Street Flats.

Ewing said the area is very safe and friendly, and word of mouth is spreading about downtown living.

Ewing loves being near the river and the convenience of being able to walk to work, as well as other downtown amenities, like the parks and the many nearby arts offerings.

Ewing says she hopes downtown's growth and environment convinces more young people to stay in the region.

“I believe in Dayton, I believe in our whole region,” she said. “I believe the city has so much potential, and again, that river is spectacular.”

The broader appeal of downtown housing is a walkable lifestyle where people have close connections to amenities and live, work and play options, said Murphy.

Housing-seekers also are drawn to loft-style units with character and charm, which oftentimes are found in unique, adaptively reused historic buildings, Murphy said.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership estimates that Dayton's core has about 1,335 apartments. A 2017 analysis by the partnership concluded that the downtown market could support more than 1,300 new additional apartments.

“There is still significant room to grow,” Murphy said. “I think that’s played out in just how quickly some of the new product has been absorbed in the market.”

Downtown Dayton is transforming. This is the second of two parts exploring the projects and the people who are rebuilding downtown as a residential neighborhood.

Part 1, Sunday: One Dublin-based company has invested $120 million in downtown.

Part 2, Today: Projects across downtown are showing demand for downtown life continues to grow.

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