Fairborn working aggressively to clear blight, attract development

If you live in Fairborn, the demolition you've been witnessing is part of the local government's plan to make the city more attractive to developers and re-developers.

"We're always working on blight removal to stabilize neighborhoods in our residential districts," Assistant City Manager Mike Gebhart told News Center 7's James Buechele on Monday. "We hope to create an environment that developers or re-developers will want to come in, see a shovel-ready site and say 'hey, this block would be great for this type of business.' "

Gebhart said City Council has for the last four years taken an aggressive approach to removing blighted structures. The city just finished a round that began in late 2016, Gebhart said, that focused mostly on residential structures but also included some commercial properties such as the former Burger King on Kaufman Avenue.

Right now, the city is razing the Falcon Inn as well as the Sunset Inn on Broad Street. The former Wright Motel, also on Broad, will be razed this summer, Gebhart said.

"Development won't come in unless the site is ready for it," he said. "It's about encouraging the private sector to come in and build up. It's not our intent to tear down just to tear down."

Removing some of the blight -- empty buildings -- takes away from issues such as substance abuse and crime, he said.

How is the city paying for the demolition? City Council has budgeted the past two cycles $250,000 a year for the blight program, the assistant city manager said.

But as the city makes progress on eliminating blight through might, there is a danger the city could lose $250,000 a year it receives from HUD through Community Development Block Grant funding. That's the other side of making the city more attractive to developers -- that money is used to help low and moderate income areas with emergency home repair and code enforcement.

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The CDBG funds are in danger because the federal government is proposing a $6 billion cut to HUD's budget, which Gebhart said "would have catastrophic effects" on the CDBG program for Fairborn and other cities in Ohio that receive those funds.

With the all knocking down of residential and commercial structures in Fairborn, Gebhart wanted everyone in the city to know that the Fairborn Theater is safe from the wrecking ball.

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He said he wanted to knock down rumors about the fate of the theater built soon after World War II, which has been deemed historic because of its aviation-themed architecture. Rumors began to stack up like bricks after one of its large plate glass windows was boarded up after recent wind storms knocked it out.

"There is no active plan to demolish the theater," Gebhart said.

"It is not on the demo list. We are looking for active uses for the building. It's our goal to find a re-use for that building,” he said. “The city recognizes the value in the theater."

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