Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park Superintendent Kendell Thompson, right, talks about the preservation of the first airplane factory with Congressmen Mike Turner and Chairman Rob Bishop of the House Committee on Natural Resources along with Dayton History President & CEO Brady Kress, and National Aviation Heritage Area Executive Director Mackensie Wittmer, left, at the Wright Company Factory on Wednesday. The Congressmen spoke about efforts to support National Parks and history in the Dayton region. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

One of Dayton’s biggest west-side buys in recent memory sets up historical Wright brothers site for development

The city of Dayton has decided to purchase the 54-acre former Delphi property, which is one of the city’s largest real estate acquisitions on the west side in recent memory.

Hundreds of people used to work at the Home Avenue site, which is also home to the world’s oldest airplane manufacturing facility. But the property has been vacant since Delphi shut down its plant a decade ago.

Plans to build the new West Dayton library branch at the site and make the Wright brothers hangars part of the national parks appeared to be in turmoil because purchase negotiations stalled.

But the city’s proposed deal will preserve the historic factory buildings and paves the way for millions of dollars of new investment on the site, including the new $10 million library branch, officials said.

“It’s a huge opportunity for economic opportunity in West Dayton,” said Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw.

RELATED: Plans for the historic Wright brothers factory site are in danger of fizzling. Here’s why.

Dayton commissioners this week approved a $1 million option agreement for property at 2701 Home Ave., which was once used by General Motors and Delphi.

Delphi shut down its plant around late 2008, and most structures on the site were later demolished, including the former headquarters of GM’s Inland Division.

The National Aviation Heritage Alliance, a local nonprofit, for years worked to acquire and preserve the two historic Wright brothers airplane factory buildings to turn over to the National Park Service.

But the alliance — which also called for redeveloping the rest of the site — could not agree on a “fair” price with the property owner, Home Avenue Redevelopment.

The city had more success at the bargaining table. Dayton officials hope to close on the property by the end of the month.

In addition to the $1 million payment, the city’s proposed deal includes a promissory note that guarantees that Home Avenue Redevelopment would get the first $250,000 of the sale of the hangars to the National Park Service.

The city and Home Avenue Redevelopment would split all proceeds above $250,000, the proposal states.

RELATED: Congress OKs $450,000 for Wright brothers factory buildings

The National Park Service has received federal authorization to buy the Wright brothers hangars and was appropriated $450,000 for the transaction.

The city’s proposed deal means the Dayton Metro Library won’t have to look for another site for its $10 million West Dayton branch.

The plan is to build the new facility by the intersection U.S. 35 and Abbey Avenue, officials said. The library would occupy about 7.5 acres.

The library’s investment and other activities at the site will be transformative, said Tim Kambitsch, executive director of the Dayton Metro Library.

“This is bigger than the library. This is big for all of West Dayton,” he said.

The city will complete a plan for the site and will look for a development partner, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

The city does not need a quick return on its investment, meaning it can be patient to ensure the build out of the rest of the property is thoughtful and economically impactful, Dickstein said.

“Our role is to go in and seed the market, and put in the infrastructure that creates the opportunity to attract private investment,” she said.

The city hopes to pursue some federal funding to help pay for infrastructure improvements at the property.

The property is along both West Third Street and very close to U.S. 35, which are major corridors and gateways into the city.

The property is a “treasure” in West Dayton that is a strong candidate for STEM-related uses, said Shaw, referring to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

The preliminary vision for the property is a mix of uses like tech, offices and possibly light industrial.

West Dayton desperately needs this kind of investment, and redevelopment the Delphi property would create connectivity between neighborhoods that are divided by the “hard barrier” of U.S. 35, Shaw said.

The scattered-site Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is the anchor that tells the story of the Dayton’s contribution to the legacy of aviation, said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton.

The factory site goes beyond the invention and accomplishment of flight to the beginning of the industry of aviation, Turner said.

Turner noted that in 2009 he succeeded in getting language signed into law that put Hawthorn Hill and the Wright factory buildings under the protection of the National Park Service.

On Wednesday, Turner toured the Wright factory buildings accompanied by U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who is chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Turner also voted in favor of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus that included $450,000 to for the acquisition of the two Wright brothers factories.

“We are able to report to (the chairman) that the community is moving forward, we’re taking the steps to be able to accomplish this … ” Turner said.

The natural resources committee is responsible for all public lands, including the parks under the National Park Service.

Most national parks are historic sites that teach the lessons of the history of this nation, and the Wright factory buildings have a lot of potential to tell a great story, Bishop said.

“Since the 1960s, park service properties — units — have actually doubled,” he said. “Most people when they think of a national park, they think of Yellowstone, but it’s much more than that.”

MORE: Wright factories anchor west-side redevelopment

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