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Tearing down Good Samaritan buildings questioned

County commissioners asks for review as planning continues on redevelopment ideas.

The early proposals for the redevelopment of the Good Samaritan Hospital site come amid calls for the buildings to be repurposed as well as uncertainty about how much to expect for the property.

The Dayton hospital at the corner of Philadelphia Drive and Salem Avenue closed one month ago after decades of anchoring the surrounding neighborhoods with jobs and health services.

Premier Health, Good Samaritan’s parent company, is planning to tear the hospital campus down and is working with a planning firm and CityWide Development — a private economic development corporation — to draw in new development with a plan for the reuse of the site.

The planners earlier this week presented three concepts that they said were plausible ways the site could be developed that would both reflect what community wants and what the market would support.

Premier is not seeking ways to save the buildings and its leaders have said it would be too expensive to try to repurpose the buildings.

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Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley said he sent a letter Friday to Premier Health’s chair of the board of trustees asking for an open exploration of whether it would be cost prohibitive to save all or some of the buildings.

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He said a review of that potential should include the public as part of the process, and terms could be included to prevent more inpatient hospital beds, which is something Premier wants to prevent.

“There’s going to be long term lingering doubt that we may be knocking down assets that could be used later,” Foley said.

Foley is also campaigning as a Democrat for for Ohio House 43rd District.

His Republican opponent is state Rep. J. Todd Smith.

Smith said when you take away a service, it limits options. Smith, who had been visiting Good Samaritan for 20 years, said he’d need to learn more to know what would be the best option to remedy any access issues, “but if we don’t take into consideration people who don’t have access, we’ve not made the right decision.”

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“We have shared with Commissioner Foley several times the comprehensive and rigorous process we undertook to determine the potential of reusing the existing buildings,” Premier said in a statement.

Premier gave a wide ranging list of reasons the buildings can’t be saved, saying there was no easy or cost effective way to downsize buildings or eliminate some buildings while not others. Many of the building products used in the original construction, such as asbestos, contain hazardous materials that are safe today but would be very expensive to work with as part of a major renovation, according to Premier.

Premier leaders previously told the Dayton Daily News that they hired an engineer firm, which found it was cost prohibitive to try to reuse the hospital. The buildings have an outdated design features like inefficient seven-foot gaps between floors and a central power plant with utilities woven through the campus, which would make it difficult to save some buildings and not others.

Three concepts for how the 13-acre site could be repurposed were presented Tuesday night at a workshop. One concept centered around new housing, one around jobs and businesses and one around civic and community space, though all had a mix of different types of development.

The concepts for the Good Samaritan site are not a finalized project with a developer and a timeline. They are an outline that in order to become a reality would need to have private businesses brought on board and financing lined up.

MORE: Premier: Phase 2 coming for revitalization around Good Samaritan Hospital

The planning firm, Columbus-based Planning NEXT, is still getting feedback on the early concepts and will give a final recommendation later this year for what should be built on the 13-acre site. The planning process started in February and is expected to last at least eight months.

After seeing the early proposals for how the land could be redeveloped where Good Samaritan Hospital now stands, longtime resident Faz Ahmed said he wants to know what these drawings will end up meaning.

He said he’s lived in northwest Dayton for decades and knows talk doesn’t always become change.

“What is it actually going to do for our community?” he said, after looking at display boards.

Ronneé Tingle, neighborhood resident who attended the public workshop, said she also wanted to know what the drawings on the display board will end up meaning for the neighborhood.

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She said young people have nowhere in the area to work and the hospital jobs have just left. She said those who haven’t moved away want to be a part of helping the neighborhood get better.

“The people who are still here are the fighters,” she said.

Planning NEXT principal Jamie Greene said while development takes a long time, there are interim ways to start reusing the site like pop-up retail and events. These strategies not only bring life to the site but also help prove the market to the private sector.

The partners on the project are the same ones that for 15 years have been involved in what is called the Phoenix Project, which uses a mix of public and private dollars for helping neighborhood investment. CityWide Development, Good Samaritan and the city of Dayton have been leaders on the Phoenix Project, which has its own governing board.

The Phoenix project has been involved with completed projects, including Five Rivers Family Health Center, the Dayton Metro Library Northwest Branch and 33 new homes built.

RELATED: Hospital closing a blow, but officials say Good Sam site has promise

But a Phoenix Project proposal to repurpose the former site of the Miracle Lane Shopping Center, near the intersection of Salem and Hillcrest, hasn’t taken off. Plans called for developing a senior living complex with residential on the upper floors and service, retail or office space on the ground floor.

The Miracle Lane shopping center was home to high-end furniture and clothing stores in the 1950s, but fell into disrepair. In 1996, most of the center was razed and the last remaining tenant, Bettman’s Pharmacy, moved out in 2001.

The same Phoenix partners — Good Samaritan, CityWide and the city of Dayton — tried but have not been able to land the highly competitive tax credits needed to move the project forward and repurpose the 8 acre site.

“We’ve been trying for five years to develop senior housing at Miracle Lane and we were not successful in getting tax credits. That’s the third time we tried,” said Karen DeMasi, CityWide’s vice president of community development.

She said community development is a long game and marked with challenges, and she understands the frustrations of residents with concerns about property values and the surrounding neigborhoods’ futures.

“They have some immediate concerns that are absolutely valid. Good Sam wasn’t just a hospital but also a neighborhood partner,” DeMasi said.

She said part of the larger plan moving forward with the Phoenix Project will need to include looking at the land owned by the project and wrapping a plan for them into the Good Sam site redevelopment.

An analysis of the site by Planning NEXT found the neighborhoods have not recovered from the recession with respect to the number of businesses or jobs.

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There were no Small Business Administration-based loans in 2016 in the 45405 and 45406 zip codes. The neighborhoods lost about 28 percent of business establishments since 2008.

“One of the things we have to figure out is how to we get capital flowing into some of the businesses that are here, both existing businesses as well as new businesses,” said Kevin Hively, with Ninigret Partners, who analyzed the economics of the neighborhood for Planning NEXT.

In a five minute drive from the site, there’s about a $65 million gap in what is being spent annually on retail and what can be bought in the neighborhoods.

Hively said about $30 million of that can likely be captured on site. He said one challenge is $65 million breaks down into lots of smaller retail categories from household appliances to food, so it is hard to find the right category of store that picks up a large enough share of the $65 million being spent elsewhere.

Still, Hively said “there is activity and there is opportunity.”

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