Two companies seek to redevelop the fairgrounds

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Group wants criteria

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Coalition wants assurances result won’t be similar to The Greene.

Two of the four firms that officially expressed interest in redeveloping the Montgomery County Fairgrounds submitted plans for the South Main Street site by the Friday deadline.

Thompson Thrift in Indiana and Dayton-based Miller-Valentine Group both turned in proposals, which were not made public on Friday.

Dayton-based Woodard Development decided to withdraw from consideration for the project on Thursday, and Beavercreek-based Synergy & Mills Development also dropped out of contention.

Potential developers said the site could be transformed into an exceptional and unparalleled community asset.

“We are extremely excited about our plan,” said Eric Joo, vice president of Miller-Valentine Group development.

But also Friday, a coalition of representatives from local business and neighborhood groups met with Dayton staff to request that developers meet certain criteria to ensure the project capitalizes on what many call a “once-in-a-lifetime” redevelopment opportunity.

The group asked for the development to connect with existing neighborhoods, offer significant public space, include a diverse mix of housing including affordable units and avoid becoming something like The Greene or other suburban-type activity centers.

“If the financials for this project can only result in a conventional, suburban-style development …. we do not think any developer should be selected or that the project should go forward at this time,” according to a letter signed by 10 representatives from groups including Historic South Park Inc., the Rubicon Business District, the Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association and the Carillon Business Association.

Four firms earlier this year submitted a mandatory letter of interest to pursue the 37-acre property. The minimum bid price for the fairgrounds is $15 million.

Montgomery County officials says its leadership and lawyers will review the proposals to determine if they contain trade secrets that prevent the information from being released to the public.

Miller-Valentine Group for years has wanted relocate the fairgrounds and redevelop that property. The company helped raise millions of dollars in support of the relocation project, but negotiations stalled.

In May, Dayton, Montgomery County and the fair board issued a joint request for proposals to try to identify a developer for the property.

Miller-Valentine Group has met with Premier Health, the University of Dayton, local stakeholders and leaders of business and neighborhood groups and has created a plan using their input that is transformative, said Joo.

Consumers want new experiences for authenticity and the fairgrounds plan will connect with the site’s history, build on the region’s innovative spirit and include refurbishing the historic roundhouse to its 1907 condition, Joo said.

“This will be a development unlike anything undertaken in Dayton in decades,” Joo said.

Miller-Valentine has constructed and developed more than 10 million square feet of commercial property. It also has built more than 15,000 multi-family housing units.

Thompson Thrift, based in Terre Haute, Ind., recognizes that the fairgrounds project is important to the community, said Eric Wojak, Thompson Thrift’s development director for the Midwest region.

The full-service construction and development company has significant experience designing, constructing, managing and leasing upscale apartment complexes, neighborhood retail centers and mixed-use developments.

The firm has completed projects in more than 100 cities across 16 states through its Thompson Thrift Retail Group, Watermark Residential and Thompson Thrift Construction companies.

The Watermark Residential company has focused on stylish, luxury apartment communities in about eight states.

The firm has built resort-style apartment complexes with amenities such as pools with sun decks and cabanas, clubhouses, TV lounges, double-sided fireplaces in common areas, yoga studios and bike-storage spaces.

Thompson Thrift is a highly successful real estate developer and contractor that played an integral role in redeveloping Terre Haute’s downtown, said Steve Witt, president of Terre Haute Economic Development Corp.

Woodard Development — the firm behind the flourishing Water Street District near RiverScape MetroPark — withdrew from consideration Thursday.

The firm looked at a variety of options but was not able to get to the minimum bid requirements at this time, said Jason Woodard, principal of Woodard .

Financial restraints were the main factor in the firm’s decision, because it is a large site that carries some significant risks for developers, Woodard said.

Synergy & Mills did not submit a proposal. Company officials did not return a request for comment Friday.

On Friday afternoon, a group loosely called the Fairgrounds Area Neighborhood Stakeholders met with Dayton management and planners to share their concerns and aspirations for the fairgrounds property.

Some members include representatives from the Hope Enclave and Edgemont neighborhoods and the Carillon and Rubicon business associations.

The group wants the committee that selects the winning proposal to ensure the project connects with and supports the revitalization of surrounding neighborhoods.

The coalition has asked developers to limit surface parking and provide a diverse range of housing, including affordable units and units both for rent and for sale.

The city Friday agreed that a representative of the neighborhood stakeholders would be on the selection committee.

The selection process should be transparent since public land is being transferred to private use, the group said.

“Obviously, most importantly we want to stay involved with the process and stay involved with the developer and make sure the ideas are as innovative and creative as this spot demands,” Amy Lee, president of Historic South Park Inc.

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