Good Samaritan Hospital is closing, but its leaders say they are committed to a project that has brought $70 million in investment to the neighborhoods around the facility.
Good Sam, which is owned by Premier Health, is a central part of the Phoenix Project — a 15-year-old partnership aimed at improving and expanding housing, economic activities and community amenities in the northwestern section of Dayton.
Phoenix Project partners have demolished dozens of blighted properties, constructed new homes, upgraded infrastructure, lured new businesses and investment and developed a new northwestern gateway into the city.
Losing Good Sam, a huge employer, is expected to be a blow to revitalization efforts in northwest Dayton, according to some local leaders.
But Premier Health officials say the next phase of the Phoenix Project presents a big opportunity to do something special and will help ensure the hospital property is redeveloped in the right way for the community. Premier will put $10 million more to the effort.
“We’re not going anywhere,” said Craig Self, Premier Health’s chief strategy officer. “We’re not like other businesses who made decisions then packed up and left town — we are an anchor institution, and our board takes that very seriously.”
The Phoenix Project, which dates back to about 2003, was launched to help change the image of the upper Salem Avenue corridor, retain and leverage economic activities in the area and improve the quality of life for local residents.
The project’s main partners have been the hospital, the city of Dayton and CityWide. Other partners have included Miller-Valentine Group, the Dayton Public Schools, the Dayton Metro Library and other organizations.
To clean up and improve the area, the partners pitched in money for transportation enhancements, acquisition and demolition of blight, development of new homes, a new neighborhood gateway and dedicated police patrols.
The city of Dayton invested more than $11 million as part of the project, and Premier Health (Good Sam) invested about $13 million. The project leveraged another $45 million in private investment, the partners said.
The Phoenix Project will transition into a second phase called “Phoenix Forward,” which will focus on shaping the future of the 13-acre hospital site, said Self.
Premier Health’s board has allocated $10 million to help fund the redevelopment of the property and has hired a planning firm to assist with determining what the community wants there, Self said.
Plans for the site will be created using community feedback from public events including a community forum that is scheduled for March 22.
Premier Health executives also will meet with the public Saturday to discuss why Good Samaritan Hospital is closing — the first community meeting since the controversial decision was made to close the northwest hospital. The Dayton Unit NAACP and local churches will host the community forum 10 a.m. at Zion Baptist Church.
Premier has not made any decisions about the Good Sam site, and other than new inpatient beds, the organization will consider all ideas from the community, officials said.
“We’re getting a lot of questions about what we think is the right use and what we think the options are, and we really don’t want to jump that far ahead and bias the community or discount ideas that may be out there,” said Buddy LaChance, Premier Health’s director of real estate services. “We really want the community to have a voice in this.”
Premier will be thoughtful and purposeful about how it approaches remaking the site, and the plan is to come back with a redevelopment recommendation for its future sometime around August, Self said.
Ideas community members have floated for the site have included new housing, senior living, retail, a sports center or athletic complex and a mixed-use development, potentially anchored by a box store.
Some local development leaders say whatever replaces Good Sam likely will have a fraction of the jobs and may not bring as many visitors to the area. Good Sam employs about 1,600 workers.
It’s too soon to know exactly what impact Good Sam’s closure will have on northwest Dayton, but potentially it could hurt neighborhood property values and could lead to job losses, said Nancy Milligan, chair of the FROC priority board.
The impending closure has put many people on edge, but it makes sense to avoid getting overly stressed until more information is available in coming months, she said.
“Hopefully what replaces Good Sam will be neighborhood friendly and very supportive to the neighborhoods,” Milligan said.
As part of the Phoenix Project, 33 new, single-family homes were constructed on Salem, McCleary, Auburn, Ravenwood and Malvern avenues, as well as a couple other streets.
Eight years ago, at a press event celebrating some of the new housing, then-Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley made some remarks that now seem especially relevant.
“If Good Samaritan Hospital wasn’t here, and they didn’t have an institutional base in this neighborhood, these things wouldn’t be happening,” said Whaley, who is now the city’s mayor.
Last month, Whaley said the future of the hospital property could be promising if Premier Health puts “real dollars” into the redevelopment and truly incorporates community input into the site plans.
The hospital site presents a significant investment opportunity because it is a large piece of land at a major intersection, according to hospital and local development officials.
Premier says it is decommissioning the site and will demolish portions but will salvage and move equipment and other components to its other medical facilities and plans to donate some materials and items to nonprofit groups.
The decommissioning is expected to complete in late 2019, possibly 2020, and the goal is to have the site shovel ready, officials said.
One of the hospital property’s most attractive qualities is its large, multi-million dollar parking garage, according to development officials, which Premier says it is willing to keep.
Premier also said it also is willing to take down the garage if the community wants to develop the site in a way that is incompatible with the structure.