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Plans unveiled for downtown entertainment district

Group buys buildings, says it will invest millions developing block.

Two investors who are part of a development group said Tuesday they’ve purchased key commercial buildings in downtown Dayton to launch a new entertainment and residential district around East Third Street.

Ohio state historic tax credits will play a role in the development of the Fire Blocks District, they said. It will operate under the organization Dayton Development Authority LLC.

Winfield Scott Gibson, 37, of Tulsa, Okla., and Elliot Katz, 44, who splits his time between Dayton and Boca Raton, Fla., said in interviews that they are members of the group. Gibson said the investment will be in the tens of millions of dollars and that the financing is lined up.

Katz earlier this month bought the half-block-long, five-story commercial building at 124 E. Third St. Katz is the owner of the Oregon District building occupied by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

Katz purchased the East Third Street building and its parking lot for around $325,000 from bank receivership. The building had been owned by Paul Hutchins.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said city staffers have been talking to the developers about the project.

“We are really excited. I know they have closed on the buildings,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of details on what they are planning.”

Gibson said the group closed on two of the buildings Monday and is about to finalize the purchase of a third, which has been under contract. The deals have yet to be recorded by the county, he added. He has a website for the development underway and is finalizing a publicity launch, Gibson added.

“We’ve been working on it for quite some time and there are a lot of moving parts in the transaction,” Gibson said.

In all, the buildings being purchased contain more than 200,000 square feet and are located on both sides of East Third, Gibson said.

The buildings include the David Building, 115 through 129 East Third St., and 20 N. Jefferson St. Purchases were made under the corporate name Simms Building, LLC. Gibson said he’s the managing member of Simms. Gibson said he plans to close on 100 East Third St. in 30 days. That building contains the Century Bar at 10 S. Jefferson St.

“The block is really a great block and it will be spectacular,” Gibson said. “It’s an effort to take a narrowly defined area and do privately what was done publicly with the Oregon District.”

Tenants of 124 E. Third St. include the law offices of Horenstein, Nicholson & Blumenthal, LPA; police equipment and uniform supplier D’nD Uniforms Inc.; photographer Jon Morton, and Downtown Dayton Optical. The third floor is empty, Katz added, and ready to lease.

The building, which spans addresses 108 through 124 East Third St., has a storied history. It was built in 1919, the year Congress passed the Volstead Act and cleared the way for Prohibition.

Katz said he’ll spend around $500,000 fixing the building’s facade and roof. Work should begin in April, he added. A Dayton Daily News story in 2013 disclosed that the basement contains what was once a legendary downtown speakeasy during prohibition.

The David Building is located in the Fire Blocks National Register Historic District downtown. It was designed by Frank Hill Smith, a prominent Dayton architect, and built following the Great Flood of 1913.

Others have attempted to redevelop the David Building. In December 2012, Brian West, then owner of the building, and Peter Jobson, president of the Excel Realty Group, were awarded $3.3 million in state Historic Preservation Tax Credits to transform the building into apartments.

Later, West and Jobson requested an increase in allocation to create 127 apartments. In June, the state announced the project was granted $4.3 million in tax credits.

But in October, West contacted the state to say the project was not moving forward, said Nathaniel Kaelin, the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program manager.

The tax credits for the David Building were then reallocated and given to a different project in the following round of awards, Kaelin said.

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