Port Authority extends sales tax exemption for Fire Blocks

Graham Hunter, from Dayton, eats at the newly opened, Salt Block Biscuit Company on Third Street in the Fire Block District Tuesday September 22,2020.

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Work on the former Price building is one of the sites enjoying the exemption

The Fire Blocks District project is moving to its next phase of development, said the CFO of the company spearheading the long-running central downtown project.

Columbus-based developer Windsor Companies has been working to revitalize close to a million square feet in downtown Dayton since the summer of 2018.

“We’re always looking for growth," Jatin Patel, chief financial officer for Windsor, said in an interview Tuesday. "A million square feet -- it’s just a number, right?”

Jatin Patel, chief financial officer, Windsor Cos., CONTRIBUTED

It’s a number with a mission, in this case. Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority trustees voted Monday to extend a sales tax exemption for ongoing construction work at the Fire Blocks project.

The vote extends sales tax protections first approved in December 2018, approving a capital lease ownership stake in the project that will shield developer Windsor Construction from sales taxes on the purchase of materials for construction.

Patel said the port authority has been “fully on board” since Windsor entered the market in 2018.

“They’ve seen our work along the way, and they were impressed by what we’ve done with the first phase,” he said.

The Salt Block Biscuit Co. is the first tenant to open in the area’s ground floor, a welcome milestone. The business had a soft opening Monday and was open to the public Tuesday.

Fire Blocks District developers outside the Salt Block Biscuit Co. in downtown Dayton, 115 E. Third St. CONTRIBUTED

“That’s actually amazing,” Patel said. “They’re the first new tenant to open up on the ground floor there.”

The first phase of the project included work in the Huffman and the Elk buildings, drawing historic tax credits to the buildings. “I don’t think you’re going to find many apartment units that probably look as good as the ones that you’ve got in Huffman and Elks,” Patel said.

And of course, in the pre-COVID era, the Century Bar opened on Super Bowl Sunday at its new location, 18 S. Jefferson St., another key moment.

Century managers were going to take a second floor at the site, but the global pandemic and restrictions on capacity put those plans on hold, Patel said.

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Windsor took over what had been a stalled development in the summer of 2018, looking to reinvigorate commercial and residential sites on both sides of Third Street between St. Clair and Jefferson streets.

The sales tax exemption now also covers properties at 28-38 S. Jefferson St., East 4th Street, the Price Stores building property in the area of 48 S. Jefferson, the former Journal Herald Building at 111 E. 4th St. and the Bird Coin building, 132 E. 3rd St., all downtown.

“We’re just finally starting the next couple of phases of the project,” Patel said. “Those buildings have always been there. We had discussed early on with the Port Authority about including those buildings. We’re just saving a little bit of money.”

The Price Stores building is one one of the sites Windsor has been working to update within the Fire Blocks district, named for the fires ignited in the area by the 1913 Great Flood. The building offers more 26,000 square feet of space at Jefferson and Fourth streets.

Also Monday, port authority trustees voted to accept up to $50 million of reserve funds from JobsOhio to improve the port authority’s Standard & Poor bond rating and boost its ability to support local projects.

JobsOhio has extended the same support to five Ohio port authority bodies, for a total of some $250 million of investment activity.

Mike DiPerna, of Westerville-based DiPerna Advisors, told trustees that by agreeing to do this, they take on no new liability. Five Ohio port authorities around the state have A- bond ratings, enabling them to sell debt to capital markets, another economic development tool.

“It’s really well thought-out, and it’s really a positive in my book,” DiPerna said.

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