Officials will reveal a redevelopment plan today for Forest Park, including a 54-acre tract in Harrison Twp. that was once the location of a thriving amusement park and later a shopping center that fell out of fashion and into decay.
“It’s going to be a catalyst to redevelop and bring excitement back to that area of North Main Street,” said Kristofer McClintick, Harrison Twp. administrator.
The final Forest Park Area Plan will be unveiled at 6 p.m. at the lodge in Sinclair Park, 685 Shoup Mill Rd. A party in the park featuring food trucks will begin at 7 p.m., weather permitting. The event is scheduled until 9 p.m.
Securing funding and building the vision could be years away, but planners will also reveal some activation activities at the site that aren’t expensive or complicated and can happen soon, he said.
Several redevelopment concepts were envisioned by planners for an area encompassing 200 acres south of Shoup Mill Road between North Main Street and Riverside Drive.
One concept, popular with residents who graded the alternatives at an April meeting, focused on creating a town square and relocating the Harrison Twp. Government Center to the site.
The result of a four-year process, the redevelopment plan could be a big leap forward for the area on top of some smaller recent positive steps, McClintick said.
A nearby 549-unit apartment complex has been refurbished top to bottom. Two schools — Dayton Public’s Charity Adams Earley Academy and the The Horizon Science Academy, a charter school — are in the plan area and attract students. The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio-Dayton office draws activities and people.
“We feel this will be the anchor site to continue that investment all along that North Main corridor,” McClintick said.
MKSK Studios, consultants out of Covington, Ky., developed the plan for County Corp, working in partnership with Harrison Twp. and Montgomery County.
A second alternative for the site included an advanced manufacturing and research center. Another showed an adventure recreation site like one in New Jersey where children and adults can operate heavy machinery such as backhoes. A fourth proposal centered on agricultural research and small-batch processing.
Joe Nickol, a planner who worked on the concepts, told attendees at an April meeting that the resulting consensus vision would likely contain elements picked from multiple concepts based on their preferences.
Each of the four visions also included new housing units as well as roadway changes that would calm traffic and add more pedestrian and bike paths to connect with the existing trail system and the Stillwater River.
The plan will rework an area that was enjoyed by many in the area. During the early 20th century, Frankie’s Forest Park was an amusement park that at times contained a zoo, dance hall, racetrack and roller coaster. The amusement park closed in 1958. Later, Forest Park Plaza, Dayton’s earliest open-air retail center, opened on the site anchored by a JCPenney.
But shopping habits and demographics shifted. In 2013, the shopping mall was razed for scrap, and a couple years later, a shuttered Ford dealership followed.
“We were able to get the building down, so that created a blank canvas for us,” McClintick said.
One of the goals is to make the area a destination, not an area drivers pass by.
“We are looking to bring people to that site so we can show them the potential and people can get familiar with it again,” McClintick said. “Because for the last three or four years it’s been a vacant site that people drive by as they are going north or south on (State Route) 48, so we want to change that.”