Confidence in the redevelopment of the Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton — a project that stalled out under past developers — has gained steam, and Montgomery County commissioners are expected to contribute $750,000 today.
A new developer, Columbus-based Windsor Companies, is acquiring many of the properties in the hopes of creating new housing, offices, first-floor amenities and other uses.
“It’s a significant redevelopment, we believe,” said Montgomery County Commission President Debbie Lieberman. “They’ve worked hard and gone through a couple different developers. We feel real good about this developer and this investment.”
The district is centered around the 100 block of East Third Street, near the downtown Dayton Metro Library. Commissioners are expected to authorize the cash infusion today through an intergovernmental agreement between the county and the Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority.
Lieberman said the county’s investment in downtown is part of a long-term economic development strategy that helped jump start past projects such as Fifth Third Field, the Schuster Center and RiverScape MetroPark. More recently, the county primed projects like RiverRun, the Levitt Pavilion and the Dayton Arcade.
“The reason that we focus on the urban core is because we believe a strong downtown Dayton benefits the entire region,” Lieberman said. “Because of these strategic investments, it’s helped lead to the renaissance of downtown.”
The Fire Blocks District’s previous developer, the Ellway Group, did not receive funding support from local governments.
Erik Collins, Montgomery County Community and Economic Development director, said Fire Blocks is in a “very critical geographic location to bridge different sections of downtown together.”
“Our $750,000 will be an important in that redevelopment,” he said. “It’s an amount that’s going to help move that project forward.”
The money will help with “hard costs” in the project, which can include things like demolition and other work, said Jerry Brunswick, president and executive director of the Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority.
The port authority is in conversations with the developers about other types of financing assistance, like a capital lease that creates a sales tax exemption on project improvements, reducing the cost of purchasing materials, Brunswick said.
The port authority may work with Windsor Companies to help the company fund energy-efficient improvements with a special assessment program called PACE, he said.
The Delco Lofts, Top of the Market and Kettering Tower have all received similar assistance from the Port Authority, Collins said.
From the get-go, Windsor Companies said its projects are going to happen, and the company backed up its claims by commencing work on some of its new properties right away.
Crews right now are working on multiple buildings on East Third Street, including the 124 E. Third St. and Huffman Block buildings.
Adaptive-reuse projects are really popular and create cool products, Brunswick said, and Fire Blocks has received state tax credits to reuse some historic buildings that come with an expiration date.
“If you don’t use them, you lose them,” he said. “They have a window.”
Two buildings acquired by the Windsor Companies were awarded nearly $4.5 million in state historic preservation tax credits in June 2016.
But earlier this year, the state warned the Ellway Group that it was at risk of forfeiting the credits if it did not prove it had financing in place for the projects and evidence that work had began.
The original deadline set by the state was June 30.
But in July, the state sent the Windsor Companies notice that it was extending the deadline to the end of September to prove that sufficient progress has been made on the project.
Windsor Companies staff say the company will have no problem fulfilling the requirements to keep the tax credits.
Lieberman said the county development money put into downtown has yielded results.
“Around some of these investments we’ve seen new restaurants, some retail shopping and an explosive housing market,” she said.