The Gem City Market will be built on the 300 and 400 block of Salem Ave., bringing a full-service grocery store to one of the largest food deserts in the state. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Grocery, housing, community center ‘signs of hope’ for Dayton neighborhood

Northwest Dayton lost a massive employer, vital medical services and an anchor institution when Good Samaritan Hospital closed over the summer.

Some people thought the closure was a death knell for that part of the city.

But new projects with millions of dollars worth of new investments are in the works that would bring life to empty and underused properties. A full-service grocery store, senior housing and a community center with programs for adults and children are coming to northwestern neighborhoods.

RELATED: Good Samaritan Hospital officially closes

“I do not feel unbridled optimism, but I see signs of hope,” said Lela Klein, the executive director of Co-op Dayton, the developer of the new Gem City Market food cooperative. “The only way (northwest Dayton) will come back is if we all get involved, because there’s no white knight riding in.”

Market supporters hosted a community block party at the future market site in the 300-400 blocks of Salem Avenue on Thursday, an event that attracted sizable crowds.

Gem City Market wanted to throw a fun party to be a good neighbor and drum up excitement about the store, Klein said.

“It’s a resilient neighborhood, it’s a strong neighborhood,” Klein said.

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Good Sam was at 2222 Philadelphia Drive, just off Salem Avenue.

It officially closed on July 23 after more than 85 years in operation.

Premier Health, which owned Good Sam, said the hospital was operating at half its capacity and many services are available just five miles away at its other facility, Miami Valley Hospital.

Premier Health says it will give $10 million to help redevelop the hospital site.

The former United Theological Seminary campus is a handful of blocks south of the Good Sam site, at Cornell Drive and Catalpa Drive in the Dayton View Triangle neighborhood.

The seminary relocated to Trotwood in 2005. Omega Baptist Church bought the 32-acre campus the same year.

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Omega Community Development Corp. has big plans for the property, including 81 new units of senior housing.

The roughly $13 million Omega Senior Lofts will provide affordable, independent living options for individuals 55 and older, according to MVAH Partners, the development partner on the project. There are waiting lists for existing affordable senior housing elsewhere in the city.

In addition to apartments, the building’s amenities will include a community room with kitchenette, a fitness center, business center and gazebo and outdoor areas.

MORE: After losing Good Sam, northwest Dayton lands $13M senior housing project

Another project at the campus is the $9 million Hope Center for Families.

The two-story center will provide workforce development training, a service learning hub and a high-quality early learning program for children up to 5 years old.

Dayton Children’s will have a pediatric clinic at the center. Sinclair Community College health program and nursing students will provide health screenings and other services. There will be after-school mentoring programs and educational programs.

The hospital “was really the only anchor institution in the area, and that’s why this community center is going to be huge benefit to the area,” said, Pete Schwiegeraht, MVAH’s senior vice president of development for the Midwest region.

Omega CDC already removed a couple of deteriorating seminary buildings and plans to demolish a couple more.

Future plans for the campus include the construction of a new amphitheater near the center of the property.

MORE: KeyBank makes large donation to Hope Center for Families

South of the campus, in the Old Dayton View neighborhood, there are other new senior housing in development by Greater Dayton Premier Management (GDPM) and Woda Group Inc.

Audubon Crossing is a three-story building featuring about 50 affordable apartments. GDPM, the local public housing authority, will provide 22 subsidized units. Leasing has begun for the housing, and there’s already a wait list.

Residents are expected to move in this fall or early winter, and a grand opening is expected to take place before the end of the year. The housing will have a fitness room, community room with kitchen, laundry room and computer lab.

The roughly $11 million development is at 1243 Edgewood Ave., not far from the Salem Avenue corridor. The formerly unused property is the last piece of the HOPE VI site.

The HOPE VI project, which dates back nearly two decades, transformed an area that was plagued with poverty and crime.

GDPM — back when it was still the Dayton Metropolitan Housing Authority (DMHA) — received $18.6 million in federal HOPE VI grant funding to eliminate severely distressed public housing in the area.

About 225 aging public housing units were demolished to make way for dozens of new rental units, duplexes and single-family homes for purchase, said Kiya Patrick, GDPM’s vice president of strategic development.

“Neighborhood leaders who are still there and who remember what it was like before confirm it was an awesome program that transformed that specific neighborhood,” Patrick said.

HOPE VI has been very successful at facilitating home ownership and creating new housing options for people with more diverse incomes in the lower Salem Avenue area, said Jennifer Heapy, CEO of GDPM.

Not far from the HOPE VI housing is the future home of the Gem City Market.

The Gem City Market will be a full-service, community-owned grocery store. The site right now is mostly vacant and contains the abandoned Ken McCallister Inc. art supply building.

MORE: Gem City Market food co-op gets a home in northwest Dayton

The Gem City Market will be a roughly $5 million investment, which supporters say will bring healthy food options to one of the nation’s worst food deserts.

“There’s no way to address a food desert except to build a full-service bricks and mortar grocery store,” said Klein with Co-op Dayton and board member of the Gem City Market.

Gem City Market originally had a goal of selling 2,000 shares (memberships) by the time the store opens, which is expected in late 2019, early 2020.

But the market has already sold about 1,780 shares and has increased its membership goal before opening to 3,000 shares. Members get discounts, are part owners of the market and receive other benefits.

The market’s community block party Thursday was considered a success, but it also illustrated that poverty remains a troubling issue in the area, Klein said.

With God’s Grace, a mobile food pantry, distributed groceries during the event. People began lining up hours before the block party to ensure they got food.

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