An aerial view of the corner of East Third and Jefferson streets. The Elks building sits at the corner and next to it is the 124 E. Third St. building. Both are targeted for redevelopment. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

New developer takes action on stalled $35M downtown Dayton project

A Columbus developer says it has taken over a stalled project to transform the Fire Blocks District and vows to begin work on a $35 million first phase this week, which could help prevent the project from losing millions of dollars worth of tax incentives.

Windsor Companies has agreed to acquire multiple properties in and around the 100 block of East Third Street from the Dayton-based Ellway Group, said Eric VanZwieten with the Windsor Companies.

RELATED: New details: Columbus firm could take reins of downtown Dayton project

Ellway Group purchased a variety of underutilized and vacant properties a few years ago with plans to turn them into housing, restaurants, bars and other uses.

But the project failed to move forward, even though the developer obtained about $4.5 million in state historic tax credits two years ago to help rehab two buildings.

The state told the developer it had until June 30 to prove it had financing for the project and start construction or the tax credits would be rescinded.

But Windsor Companies is now developing the district and the Ellway Group will have no part of the project, VanZwieten said.

The project begins with the renovation of the Elks Building at 100 E. Third St.; the Huffman block building, 111-129 E. Third St.; and, soon after, the building at 124 E. Third St., VanZwieten said.

The tax credits will be retained, he said, and a construction crane will be placed at 100 E. Third St. today, with demolition getting underway on Thursday.

“We have been told at least 100 times that we will no longer be skeptical of this project once we see the hammers swinging,” VanZwieten said. “On Thursday, we are going to have some hammers swinging.”

Skepticism about the Fire Blocks project mounted after the Ellway Group failed to deliver new housing, restaurants and other spaces it proposed.

RELATED: Dayton’s Fire Blocks faces deadline, could lose $4.5M in funds

But Windsor Companies is now in charge and plans to “white box” the first floor of the Elks and Huffman buildings in about nine months, VanZwieten said.

The spaces will be built out after that, and plan is to have them pre-leased before construction is complete, he said.

Windsor Companies proposes to create innovative office spaces attractive to tech firms and other cutting-edge companies, and the upper stories will be converted into housing, VanZwieten said.

Housing in the Huffman and Elks buildings should be available in about a year from now, he said.

Windsor Companies is uniquely capable of getting this project done because it is a vertically integrated construction and development company that specializes in “transforming architectural gems into innovative spaces,” VanZwieten said

The Fire Blocks’ success hinges on the community getting behind the project by leasing the available office space and renting the housing, he said. Pre-leasing starts this week.

The Fire Blocks needs to become an ecosystem offering a diverse set of amenities and destinations, VanZwieten said.

“Everyone needs to be rowing in the same direction to get this thing done,” he said.

Proof comes Thursday that this is no pie-in-the-sky fantasy when crews get to work removing and replacing the roof of the Elks building, VanZwieten said.

MORE: Emergency demolition in place after massive downtown Dayton building fire

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