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

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Combined ShapeCaption
The Wright Company Factory completed in 1911 ready for redevelopment in Dayton

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

New library branch, more West Dayton development also on hold.

Efforts to restore and reuse a West Dayton site that is home to the world’s oldest airplane manufacturing facility have hit an impasse, one that also threatens a plan to build a new library and attract other investments to a poor part of the city.

After millions of dollars were spent cleaning up the former Delphi property at 2701 Home Ave., which houses the Wright Brothers factory buildings, the Dayton Metro Library announced plans to build its new West Dayton branch on the site. Local officials touted the redevelopment potential of the surrounding buildings and land.

But two years after the library’s announcement, no deal has been reached to buy the property for redevelopment, and one prospective buyer says its negotiations reached an impasse because the asking price was too high.

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

The site has historic importance, significant revitalization promise and has benefited from considerable public investment, but its sale or redevelopment is unlikely anytime soon if the seller continues to seek a much larger payday than the property is worth, said Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, a local nonprofit that has made offers to buy the property.

“We offered them $765,000 for property that’s worth $460,000 — does that sound like we’re being unfair?” Sculimbrene said, adding that public entities interested in portions the site like the library and park service will not pay more than market value for the property.

Home Avenue Redevelopment, the property owner, says it is confident the site can be returned to productive use and the historic buildings will be transferred to the National Park Service.

Despite the delays, Dayton officials said the company has a good track record of acquiring these types of sites and preparing them for redevelopment.

“I think we are pretty close to seeing some movement on that,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Contamination issues

Home Avenue Redevelopment owns 54 acres of land in West Dayton that formerly contained the Delphi plant, which has been demolished.The land is located south of West Third Street and north of U.S. 35., and falls on both sides of Abbey Avenue.

Today, there are six buildings on the site — five of which look alike.

Two buildings belonged to the Wright Bros. and served as the first place in the nation where airplanes were built for commercial use. The three other similar buildings were part of the original factory complex.

The National Park Service wants to acquire and restore the two historic Wright Brothers buildings to become part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park.

Earlier this year, the federal government approved a $450,000 allocation to the park service for the real estate purchase.

The National Aviation Heritage Alliance has tried for years to buy some or all of the land, with the goal of transferring the historic buildings to establish the new national park.

Negotiations have been unsuccessful.

The alliance at one point offered to pay Home Avenue Redevelopment $1 million for all 54 acres, Sculimbrene said, but the seller refused to provide environmental indemnification for the site.

That means the buyer would be liable for any contamination issues, requiring the purchase of pricey environmental insurance, Sculimbrene said.

Continued monitoring

Last year, the city of Dayton and Home Avenue Redevelopment received a covenant not to sue from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency if they complied with certain monitoring and environmental requirements at the property.

But homes near the site remain in active remediation, which will require continued monitoring and review by environmental regulators and create a significant liability risk, Sculimbrene said.

Home Avenue Redevelopment and its broker have not responded to the alliance’s offers, and negotiations are at an impasse, Sculimbrene said.

In October, the broker said it wanted $1.25 million for the entire property or $615,000 for a 12.5-acre lot that contained the Wright Brothers factory.

The alliance offered to buy 37 acres for $765,000 without environmental indemnification, which is significantly more money than the parcels are worth, Sculimbrene said.

The Dunham Company, which completed a real estate assessment for the alliance and the Dayton Metro Library, concluded that all 54 acres "as is" were worth about $298,000, when factoring in holding costs and other expenses, according to a letter from the firm.

But if bought in pieces, the parcels were valued at $245,000, $215,000 and $135,000, the firm said.

The parcels the alliance offered to buy for $765,000 were appraised at $460,000, Sculimbrene said.

Won’t overpay for property

The alliance is not going to overpay for the property, and it’s disappointing that millions of dollars of public money have been spent to help create a national park site that seems a long way from happening given the current state of negotiations, Sculimbrene said.

Public funding benefiting the site includes $3 million that Home Avenue Redevelopment and the city of Dayton received from the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund.

The funds, awarded in 2012, were supposed to help pay for cleaning contaminated soils, demolition and removing asbestos and general waste, the state said.

The city of Dayton also approved a $500,000 development agreement with Home Avenue Redevelopment, saying company would use the funds to help prepare the property for redevelopment and reuse, including the preservation of the original airplane factory.

The funds have been used for a small amount of the environmental cleanup, environmental monitoring, grounds keeping, and site security, said Ford Weber, Dayton’s director of economic development.

Brad White, principal with Home Avenue Redevelopment, said his company is committed to transferring the historic buildings to the National Park Service once the “administrative tasks for the transfer” are completed.

White, who is also the vice president of brownfields at Hull & Associates, said the company is committed to developing the rest of the property, which is consistent with its agreement with the city of Dayton.

“We think that it is a great site given its location, access and infrastructure,” he said, “and we’ve had interest for a variety of uses …”

Win-win deal possible

The Dayton Metro Library still wants to build its $10 million West Dayton branch on the property at the northeast corner of U.S. 35 and Abbey Avenue.

The location was selected based on public input, its central location to the library’s existing branches and because it would be a catalyst for further economic development, said Tim Kambitsch, executive director of the Dayton Metro Library.

There is a lot of support in the community to make this deal happen, Kambitsch said, and the library is eager to get started on the new branch once the site issues get resolved.

“While NAHA and Hull and Associates haven’t reached an agreement yet, a win-win compromise seems possible since Hull wants to sell the property,” said Kambitsch.

But Kambitsch said the library would not move to the site on its own, without partnering with the alliance or receiving other planned development commitments from other partners.

He said the library does not want to run the risk of incompatible uses moving in around the facility.

The library is in support of office buildings, light manufacturing and other businesses, but does not want a trucking company, foundry or raw materials as a neighbor, Kambitsch said.

The library is interested in about 7.5 acres of property, and the library would be willing to move forward with the project if the alliance were the only partner at the site, he said.

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