Woosh, we’re a test market

Last summer, it wasn’t safe to drink the water in Toledo, thanks to a giant algae bloom.

Now, it’s not safe for the people of Flint to drink the water because when the “Emergency Manager” for the bankrupt city decided to switch water supplies- the acidic river water flushed the calcification in the lead pipes away- and the water is now contaminated with lead.

Even the little town of Sebring, Ohio, is having issues with high lead content in the water, despite our governor’s blustering statement that if he was facing a water crisis like the one in Flint “every single engine of government has to move when you see a crisis like that.”

Well, Dayton, knock on wood, has excellent water. And while we still have plenty of lead pipes for distribution, our hard well water, still deposits plenty of calcification to line and protect us. Our water is even softened with a huge lime kiln and has our blue lagoon off Route 4 to store our lime for keeping our water from tasting like nasty well water.

Woosh water station photo

A Woosh Station outside- which isn’t possible, because current system isn’t suitable for winter.

So, you have to wonder what brings the Israeli tech start-up Woosh to Dayton to test their purified water stations to compete with bottled water. And, why do people in Dayton still buy so much bottled water- that often times isn’t as tasty as what comes out of our taps.

That was my first question when I met with Itay Zamir  and Dani  Oren from Woosh Water when I met with them at Sinclair on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Their first answer was “people get innovation here” followed by “people care about the environment”- at least that’s what they’d been told. Why these guys were talking to me is another odd question. It seems the PR person who is handling them for the powers that be thinks this blog is well read- and I was the party responsible for bringing bike share to Dayton-  and these guys love bike share.

This is one of the first potential wins for the “Dayton Regional Trade Alliance” (DRITA) which has been shuffling politicians back and forth between Israel and Dayton- and we’ve got a few lobbyists on the payroll to try to sell Dayton as a manufacturing mecca, just prime to produce Israeli tech products for a much larger market. County Commissioner Dan Foley was there in 2013, along with then Dayton Assistant City Manager Shelley Dickstein when they first met with Woosh.

To explain Woosh- is pretty easy- it’s a glorified water fountain, that washes and “purifies” the bottle before filling it- with a credit card reader built in to take your money. The water is purified with O3- or Ozone, that’s made with water and electricity- and is the secret to cleaning your bottle. Could you use your own bottle and fill it from any old water fountain- sure- but, this water fountain has a few differences- the ozone treatment is one, the measured use replaceable filter (just like your refrigerator might have) and the wash step- for a price about half of what bottled water costs.

The system has been tested in Tel Aviv- with some success. There was also some push back- when they first rolled it out with free water- there were complaints about the registration process requiring a credit card. The difference of course is here it freezes. They don’t have an outdoor machine ready yet.

The machines cost around $20K each right now- but when they ramp up to mass production the price should fall. What’s missing right now is the business model. When pressed for how these are managed, who gets the money, and why you want to Woosh it- was all pretty vague. Right now, the three test stations in Sinclair generate money for Woosh. There is no payback to Sinclair for water, electricity or even rent for the floor space. Both Montgomery County and Dayton City Hall are planning on adding Woosh stations too- and according to the Dayton Daily- each org is kicking $25K over to Woosh to be in the pilot program. If this sounds a bit like Tom Sawyer charging his friends to do his work painting his fence you and I are in agreement. Of course, the payoff is the promise to build the Woosh in Dayton- for sale all over the U.S.

This is what happens when politicians do business deals.

That all being said- the Woosh guys are on a mission- to do away with the buying of bottled water. Ever looked at the bottle of water you bought at Sam’s Club or Kroger? Mother Jones did a story that a lot of the “premium brands” come from areas hit by drought. Many are just filtered tap water. The costs of bottled water add up; branding, bottling, transport, advertising- all for something we should already have- just open a tap, put it in the fridge- and voila. The fact that not only has bottled water use been growing at astronomical rates- but, that it supposedly outsells all soda sold on the Sinclair campus (the school wouldn’t give actual numbers). And that’s at $1.50 or so a bottle. Nice margin there if you can get it.

There is also the issue of BPA in the plastic bottles that most bottled water comes in. All the “purity” of the water is put at risk by this chemical used in the bottle.

BPA (bisphenol-A) is a potentially toxic estrogen-mimicking compound used in plastic production that has been linked to breast cancer, early puberty, infertility, and other maladies. It’s dangerous enough that it has been banned in baby bottles in Europe, Canada, and even China—but not in the U.S. And it turns out that it’s almost entirely unavoidable. It’s in water bottles…

Source: 6 Steps to Avoiding BPA in Your Daily Life

The novelty of the Woosh system is the way you can buy it in bulk- and become a “member” – and use an RFID tag- or your Tartan card- to buy your water, instead of the single serve via cc option. The real killer cost here is the cc transaction processing cost- which is why giving a discount to larger purchases- or using the Tartan card is good for Woosh. They have also somewhat gamified their system- to track how much environmental benefit you are granting the world by Wooshing instead of hitting the bottle.

Really- as long as people are willing to pay stupid amounts of money for bottled water- Woosh makes sense. I’m not really sure why the genius innovators in Dayton haven’t started selling our tap water bottled instead of handing money over to Woosh- but we could still do both. It sure seems smarter to ship Dayton’s wonderful water to Flint than to allow Pepsi, Coke & Nestle to ship their hoity-toity water from drought zones.

Or better yet- start mass producing Woosh stations right now- and sell them to Flint, as a cheaper solution than having the National Guard handing out free bottled water daily. If someone from DRITA was smart enough to get it in writing that they’d be produced here- it shouldn’t be too hard to find demand for a whole bunch of these Woosh stations right now in Flint.

The guys from Woosh aren’t monogamous to Dayton, apparently they’ve been having a dalliance with the city of Miami Beach- to install a “Smart Water Stations Network” in Miami Beach- they signed an agreement back in March, 2015. Let’s hope that Shelley Dickstein remembered to get this manufacturing contract in writing this time- unlike her Wayne Avenue Kroger deal.

The Woosh system deploys with three stations at Sinclair on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016. One will be outside the Tartan marketplace, another at the Main St. Cafe and the third at the Sinclair end of the parking garage walkway in Building 14.

Cheerleaders don’t win football games

An exchange on Facebook, when I commented that I think it’s embarrassing that you can buy a house in Dayton for $20K. One that’s actually habitable.

John Patrick I feel like you should not run for office in Dayton after these and other similar comments.

David Esrati John Patrick- I’m sorry you feel that way. I guess you prefer to continue to watch taxes go up, services go down, schools fail, and people leaving not just Dayton- but Montgomery County. Do you even know who picks the candidates you see on the ballot? Didn’t think so.

Josh Opsahl Wow. Gotta say I pretty much agree with John here. David, while I find you consistently informative and appreciate your knowledge and perspective, your inability to reign in your dickishness pretty much precludes your ever getting my vote. The last thing Dayton needs is more disparaging negativity. While I expect our elected officials to be able to meaningfully critique the problems at hand, and I think you’re fantastic at doing so, I also expect our elected officials to cheerlead our city and to be able to play nicely with others. These do not appear to be your strong suits.

I’m sure you’ll value my opinion not in the slightest, but as part of the voting public, I just want to point out that your tactics undermine your efforts.

David Esrati To John and Josh. Let me explain something to you- cheerleaders don’t win football games, and you don’t want the most popular person in your high school doing brain surgery on you.
Keep voting for the idiots you elect- and watch as your region deteriorates. The collective IQ of those Daytonians elect isn’t enough to make it to triple digits.

An intelligent addition:

Donna MartinDavid Esrati, Not surprising at all …The figures that keep being floated for sales of homes in Dayton by the press are misleading, as they combine the “area” and do not list Dayton alone. For 2014, Dayton had 1540 sales… with the median sale price at $35,000.

John Patrick You’ll find cheap houses in any major city in the Midwest. Inexpensive homes are a direct result of sprawl so it’s tough to battle. Let’s rebuild our struggling neighborhoods instead of bringing them down with negative comments

and this is where I’m just tired of the stupidity-

David Esrati And John- my neighborhood isn’t struggling- except to get adequate service from the city. Go fuck your “negative comments”- I’ve bought 5 houses and fixed them up- wtf have you done? Oh, excuse me- who the fuck are you?
Run for office just once please.

Oh, yeah- did I point out that John Patrick lives in Columbus….

For the record- I bought my first house in Dayton for $14,500 in 1986. I’m pretty sure neither of these armchair leaders were even born then. I bought my office in 1988 for $2,400 and $2,200 in back taxes. I bought the two cottages in 1995 for $19,500 each (I overpaid- but had to get the street under control and was looking forward to when I’d need to take care of my parents). I bought the house behind me in 1999 for $50K (I think) and sold it 2 years later for $138K after extensive rehab.

Historic South Park is one of the few neighborhoods in the city where they raised property taxes. This didn’t happen by accident. Our average home sale is probably 2x the city median. I’d say my brand of “dickishness” helps raise neighborhood expectations and standards better than our “leaders” with their tax breaks for GE, “economic development” scams, buying up empty buildings with no public use, cutting of services, pay increases for part-time jobs and love of keeping their friends and family in government jobs…

No, cheerleaders don’t win football games. Remember that.

 

5 of 6 structures in Dayton are occupied

Photo by David Esrati of the demolition of the OOF hall in St. Annes Hill

We tear our city down literally- too well.

The Dayton Daily news headline is “1 in 6 structures in Dayton are vacant” and it sounds horrible.

Of course it does- because the Dayton Daily news thinks bashing Dayton is good for selling papers (not that they are doing a good job of that- you can now giveaway 4 subscriptions with your one subscription for free….).

The real story is in where the vacancies are- and how much money the city is pouring into the hands of demolition contractors, instead of doing things to strengthen the city.

Here are some excerpts from the DDn hack story:

About one in six structures in Dayton are vacant even though the city has spent millions of dollars knocking down eyesores and some areas show strong signs of blight reversal.

Urban decay continues to plague area neighborhoods, including a handful in which more than one-third of structures are empty or abandoned, according to the results of a citywide property survey obtained by this newspaper.

Vacant homes and buildings drag down property values, attract criminal activity and provide neighbors with a disincentive to invest in their properties.

But the survey data show that less than 10 percent of structures are vacant in nearly half the city’s neighborhoods, suggesting some stabilization in the housing and commercial real estate markets.

The city and its partners have removed more than 2,200 structures since 2009. The city has spent $18 million or more on demolition.

“We’re not out of the woods, but I think these numbers show things are improving,” said Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

Earlier this year, Dayton hired the Ohio-based Thriving Communities Institute to survey all parcels in the city to document their conditions and whether or not they are occupied.

Two-person teams spent months canvassing the city to assess, map and photograph every structure and empty lot. The information will be used to create a database to guide Dayton’s demolition strategy and how it invests community development funds.

The survey found the city is home to about 53,574 parcels containing structures. Of those, about 6,601 — or 12 percent of the total — have vacant homes, buildings, garages and other structures.

No one next door

Blight casts a long shadow over day-to-day life for some residents of the Santa Clara neighborhood.

Santa Clara was ground zero of Ohio’s foreclosure crisis. Five years ago, government data showed it was one of the 10 most abandoned areas in the country…

More than 35 percent of structures in the Santa Clara neighborhood are vacant. It had the highest proportion of vacant structures out of Dayton’s 66 neighborhoods.Some other parts of the city are nearly as empty. More than one in three structures are vacant in the Southern Dayton View and Roosevelt neighborhoods.

There is no directly comparable data for previous years, because the U.S. Census only measures individual units and not structures.

Still, the 2010 Census found that nearly half of units were empty in the Santa Clara area. About 44 percent of units were uninhabited in Southern Dayton View and 40 percent were unoccupied in Roosevelt, the Census said.

Combined, Santa Clara, Dayton View and Roosevelt have 844 abandoned structures, which tend to attract drug users, prostitutes, metal thieves and fire bugs.

But despite the prevalence of run-down properties, the city’s problem with abandonment seems to be receding as decrepit homes and buildings are reduced to rubble.

In Santa Clara, the city has leveled dozens of structures since the late 2000s, including some of the most abominable eyesores. The city has prioritized removing fire-damaged structures and blight along major corridors as well as in “asset development areas” near schools, employers and institutions.

City officials estimated Dayton had about 8,000 to 9,000 empty structures in 2009.

If those numbers are accurate, Dayton’s supply of abandoned structures has been reduced by as much as 27 percent.

“I think in most neighborhoods, there has been a decrease in the number of vacancies,” Sorrell said.

Notably, in 31 neighborhoods, fewer than one in 10 structures are empty.

And in some areas, residents can count the number of empty structures on two hands.For instance, less than 1 percent of structures are empty in the Forest Ridge / Quail Hollow neighborhood.

In the Eastmont, Gateway, Pheasant Hill, Shroyer Park and Patterson Park neighborhoods, less than 2 percent of structures are vacant.

The problem, however, remains daunting.

On average, it costs the city about $11,000 to demolish and remediate abandoned properties.

Based on that rough estimate, it would still cost the city tens of millions of dollars to dramatically decrease the number of vacant structures.

Source: 1 in 6 structures in Dayton are vacant

Let’s analyze the problem. In some neighborhoods, vacancy is running much higher. This means either no one wants to live there because the housing stock is too far gone, there is too much crime, there are no amenities, or, most importantly- there is no security in investing because no one sees a future where they get their money back. This is business 101.

Other neighborhoods the vacancy rates are much lower- but still too high.

Some neighborhoods aren’t having problems at all- and still have some vacancies.

Instead of fixing the problems that cause people to disinvest, we “invest” in demolition. We’ve spent millions of dollars taking tax generating inventory off the shelf. We get zero return for doing this. At an average cost of $11,000 just to tear a property down, that’s $11,000 that could go toward relocating neighbors into the solid neighborhoods- or to the ones where vacancies are just beginning to be a problem. We could also hire a new policeman for every 6 houses we tear down- to try to stop the “drug users, prostitutes, metal thieves and fire bugs” that these vacant houses supposedly attract.

We have not gone after banks to stop foreclosures- or hold them accountable for the properties that they empty out. We not only lose a citizen, we know that when we kick people out- the houses are getting scrapped and become worthless almost overnight. The cost is huge. Stop evicting people, unless you hold the banks accountable for the condition of the homes.

In order to see investment return, there has to be some kind of real plan in place to make the neighborhood attractive to investors. Why not waive all property taxes for any investor that purchases at least 3 homes in the same under-populated neighborhood- and give them $5000 each toward rehab? Condition of tax waiver- at least one tenant paying income tax per property. This means no more mowing lots, no more blight- and the houses have to meet exterior code. We have no problem waiving taxes for employers- why not do it for small investors?

We had a company in Dayton that hired x-cons to tear down houses and recycle the materials- we put them out of business by not awarding contracts fairly or smartly.

There are parts of Dayton that are doing OK- but, they can’t afford to keep paying to tear down others problems. You don’t build a city up by tearing it down. At some point, you just have to give up on providing services and worrying about neighborhoods that are half-empty and start working on keeping others from joining them.

Wake up people. Your leadership isn’t wearing clothes on this one.

Government of the people, for the people reexamined

It was 2012. I ran for Congress. I made a video about the foreclosure crisis and called on the banks to admit responsibility for the properties they seize and let rot.

I didn’t go to the hardest hit parts of the city- I just went a few blocks from my house and office.

Occupied. Home owner. In progress.

Occupied. Home owner. In progress.

The house where I’m sitting on the porch, with the siding falling out on the side- has had occupants for about a year now. It’s still not painted, but, it’s back to habitable.

The guy who lives in it, is young, a contractor, he specializes in floor sanding and refinishing. He’s doing work around the neighborhood- and he, and his lovely girlfriend have been at a few neighborhood functions.

They like it in South Park.

The house had sold at one time for well over $150K- and been totally rehabbed. He bought it for a fraction of that.

What was red, and unsightly is now an Air B&B and architects office

What was red, and unsightly is now an Air B&B and architects office

The house where the sink, furnace, and wiring is cut- is now an architect’s office and Air B&B. People pay $90 a night to stay there. The owner, lives next door. It’s a total rehab- and completely finished. Cute. Friendly. A neighborhood asset.

Why am I pointing these two out?

Because, the city of Dayton did nothing for this to happen. The neighborhood is what made it happen.

People are still investing in South Park, wanting to live here, wanting to fix things up, because of the community we have created. Our public schools suck just as bad as they do for Westwood, or Residence Park or Dayton View- which has way nicer housing stock.

We all have the same crappy street cleaning, same crappy trash collection, same overburdened police, same poor parks and rec department- but houses that would have been doomed for demolition come back from death’s doorstep here. True, the historic zoning makes it harder to tear things down, but, in South Park things are happening.

We have a church- that houses an arts center. We may have another one on the way- right next door. The neighbors produce free Shakespeare in the park, we have progressive parties in the summer, an active neighborhood association. One idiot organizes social soccer on Sundays. We have a book club, hot toddy parties, the list goes on.

Since I moved here in 1986, we’ve been lucky to add places like Custom Frame Services, Halal International Grocery, Pizza Factory, South Park Tavern, Remember When Antiques, Coco’s, Jimmie’s Ladder 11, Spin City, Ghostlight Coffee and The Next Wave as locally owned, independent businesses. Unfortunately, we lost Graeff Hardware, Poppelmeirs, a shoe repair, a car parts store, a small bakery and a few others.

There are still opportunities here- and interest. Someone is thinking about a wine bar, another about a conference center/reception hall.

And all of it happens, without the help of an “Economic Development director” or the “West Dayton Fund” or ED/GE grants, or tax abatements or any of the other government “tools” that you constantly hear about as the reason for a “renaissance.”

On Monday the City Commission will swear in another pawn in the game, and re-seat a seat warmer. The Mayor will talk about all the things that she has accomplished- and yet, things are still grossly wrong in Dayton.

Property values are still moribund. Population is stagnant. Schools are the worst in the state. Our expectations from government are low. Taxes and fees are increasing. Service is lackluster.

The city has cut funds to neighborhoods considerably. Our police force is at record low staffing. Problems we had 25 years ago are still being dealt with- or pushed to the back burner, while we’ve added the heroin epidemic on top of it all. White-collar jobs are still fleeing downtown for Austin Landing, the Greene, and if it wasn’t for Obamacare driving the growth of CareSource, Dayton would be broke.

The focus always seems to be on buildings. We were told if we fixed the Arcade and built new “class A” office space downtown jobs would return, then we were told if we built new schools, performance would improve, now we’re looking at the Arcade again, we’re buying buildings with no public use for a premium over market value, we’re making holes in the ground on Ludlow street- all in the name of “economic development.”

For 2016, my advice to Dayton: go back to Lincoln and the Gettysburg address. Invest in community, in the power of people. Look at communities and figure out if the density is there to have them come back- or look to consolidate to other neighborhoods. Find ways to improve the quality of life. Stress pride in our community. Talk about what we have that’s working- and celebrate those that make living in the city awesome. Find ways to empower people who homestead. Look at empty houses as opportunities. And most of all, stop accepting mediocrity.

We need to dig in and find our collective integrity, a new respect for our citizens, innovate our way around the hand we’ve been dealt, inspire all to expect more, and bootstrap our way into being a city that is once again known as the cleanest, safest city in America. Invest in people, not in the buildings- and the return will surprise you.

South Park isn’t perfect, but, we’ve managed to buck all trends. It happened because we decided that we wanted something better, and came together to make it happen.

Of the people, for the people.

Did Dayton road construction kill another business? Denny’s to close tomorrow

Although the management out of Cleveland won’t confirm, it’s pretty clear that Denny’s at 1136 S. Main Street is closing tomorrow.

No more late night hangout downtown after everything closes. Nope. Not allowed. Work a long second shift and want to grab a bite at 2 a.m.? Too bad. Not in Nan’s city.

Now, before you go look at the Google reviews, or Yelp or Trip Advisor and say – “yeah, well, they sucked” – you also have to understand the forces they are up against- mainly- a road that no one wanted to drive down for a year plus. It’s hard to keep good help, when business is choked off. Why it took so long to repave a mile of road is a mystery. The Allies landed on the Normandy beachhead and managed to cross 7 major rivers that had the bridges bombed- in less time on their march to Berlin.

Of course, Denny’s doesn’t matter to the City of Dayton. All that matters is Miami Valley Hospital- where the overpaid leadership contributes healthily to the campaign of Mayor Nan. Or UD, or Miller Valentine. Or GE, or Emerson- or other companies that either don’t pay property taxes, or get huge tax-abatement gifts- in exchange for the promise of higher-paying jobs for people who can’t vote in the city because they live in the ‘burbs for the most part. Denny’s hired Dayton residents. Jobs. Not great ones- but, every job and every business should matter.

There was a lot of second guessing about what the city should have done to keep NCR in Dayton- but, no one will wonder what Dayton should have done to keep Denny’s.

Before the construction of the building on Brown that now houses Hot Head Burritos, Ginger & Spice and Subway, a small developer wanted to put an IHOP in that was going to be a 24-hour establishment- just like Denny’s. The hospital and the “Fairgrounds neighborhood” fought it. Noise complaints. Safety complaints.  Never mind the helicopters at all hours of the night. The developer was being told they’d have to hire an off-duty Dayton cop around the clock. Screw it. He stopped doing business in the city.

The real test will be to see what happens to the empty building. If the hospital buys it- or if someone else has their fingers in it already. It’s registered to BGZ Investments out of Addington, Texas, on the super slow Montgomery County auditor’s site (thanks Tyler Technologies). In the 15 years available on the site- the tax value has climbed from $390,400 to $460,530 despite the building being in pretty sad shape. Since 1999, they’d paid $250,799.40 in property taxes.

Best of luck to the employees in finding new jobs. Some of them had been there for a really long time.

Post election present: higher trash fees

Trash left in Alley by Dayton "trash collection"

I turned this in to “Dayton Delivers” 2 trash collections ago- after it had sat for at least 1. Still there.

After the last election where stupid Dayton voters put the “Endorsed Democrats” on the ballot, we got hit with a fee for new street lights.

This year, we get higher trash fees:

Dayton proposes the largest waste collection fee increase in years, which comes at a time when the city lost a major service contract and personnel costs are rising.

The city in 2016 proposes increasing the annual fee by $10 to $151.90.

The proposed fee hike exceeds the increases of the three previous years combined.

Dayton’s waste collection fees usually are tied to the consumer price index, which has been flat because of low fuel prices.

But a fee hike is necessitated to cover employee raises and rising health-care costs, city officials said.

“It’s related to costs,” said Stanley Earley, Dayton’s deputy city manager.

Also, Dayton next year will lose thousands of customers because Riverside is switching providers.

Dayton provides waste pick-up and disposal services to about 55,000 customers.

Source: Dayton trash fees likely to increase next year

Because you read this site, you aren’t a stupid Dayton voter, so you’ll understand the following:

  1. Costs should have dropped over the last year, since fuel prices are now 1/3rd or less than they were.
  2. If the costs of labor are so high, maybe we should put our system out to bid- obviously, Riverside found a better deal. Of course, if you are Nan Whaley, who accepted tens of thousands of union dollars to her half-million-dollar campaign, you have to pay the union back somehow.
  3. If the 55,000 customers pay $10 more per year, that means we needed $550,000 more to keep the price the same. Let’s see, we spent $450,000 for a building on Wayne Avenue next to Garden Station that has zero development, we paid $450,000 for a building at 601 E. Third Street that has no development, we are in the process of buying the “Paru Tower/Key Bank/Society Bank/Third National Bank” building on North Main for $500,000 with no signed contract, hmmmm, right there is 3 years of revenue for the trash service that went to buy trashed buildings with no public use.
  4. And, oh, yes, there is also the million dollars we gave Student Suites to make the hole in the ground on Ludlow, and the $167,000 we spent tearing down parts of the old DP&L steam plant at E. Third and Webster… do you see where your tax dollars are being spent yet?

The fact is that while this issue will slide under every one’s radar until January when the first bills get mailed, everyone is up in arms because Queen Nan, media attention whore, is making statements about accepting Syrian Refugees- and trying to square up against Governor John Kasich, media whore, who is saying no Syrian Refugees will be coming to Ohio.

Note, your chance of being killed by a teen driving a car with temporary plates while texting are much higher than your chance of being a victim of a Jihadist. But, that’s the point- why discuss things we can fix here in Ohio- like School funding- or reinstating proper leaf collection, which actually make a difference?

The hole on Ludlow Street

Photo by David Esrati of the demolition of the Dayton Daily News building 1923 addition

The day after demolition was allowed to continue

Last week the Dayton Daily news had the sad, sad story of poor Steve Rauch who didn’t get paid for tearing down a perfectly good historic building. No mention of performance bonds- which is the norm for projects like this:

The company that demolished parts of the historic Dayton Daily News building at 45 S. Ludlow St. has sued Student Suites Dayton LLC for allegedly not paying its nearly $800,000 bill.

The civil lawsuit filed Thursday in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court by Steve Rauch Inc. seeks financial damages and a foreclosure on the mechanic’s Lien against Student Suites Dayton (SSD), which originally planned to build a 350-unit, $18 million housing complex that could serve Sinclair Community College students.

Steve Rauch told this newspaper last week that he stopped working on the project when the billing cost for his work hit $869,000 and he still hadn’t been paid.A demolition contract between Student Suites Dayton LLC and Steve R. Rauch Inc. specifies a payment of $1.292 million. Rauch said he stopped working on the project because he hadn’t been paid.

“What a mess that place is down there, isn’t it?” he said. “I’ve liened it — against Student Suites. They haven’t paid me a dime.”

Rauch said he initially held off on filing a lawsuit, hoping to get paid as the project moves forward. “We are not the bad guy that put a bullet in the deal,” he said.

Through an email, Student Suites Dayton declined to comment.The suit alleged Rauch performed all demolition of the former Dayton Daily News and Schwind buildings, and related services. The cost, $775,195, has been due since Jan. 21, 2014, the lawsuit alleges. Interest of 10 percent per annum on the principal has been accruing since then, according to the suit.

Rauch’s attorney, Gregory Page, said the total owed, including interest, is more than $900,000.

“Based on SSD’s ongoing refusal to pay the sums due and owing, Rauch caused multiple affidavits for mechanic’s lien to be recorded against the property,” the suit alleges. “SSD’s actions, including, but not limited to, its failure or refusal to pay the sums due to Rauch, constitute a breach of contract.

”Besides compensatory damages and pre- and post-judgment interest of 10 percent, Rauch seeks attorney fees and costs, and for a judgment ordering the property to be foreclosed and sold. He is also asking that the plaintiff’s liens be paid from the proceeds of the sale.

The city of Dayton, which originally committed $1 million toward the project, increased that to $1.215 million in April 2014. The city’s share went toward demolition and cleanup of the former Schwind Building property.

Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development, said at the time that the money was from additional grants, not city general funds.

Complications arose over the Schwind Building, which was demolished in 2013.

A deed restriction imposed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development limited use of the property to low-income housing, and the Students Suites project did not qualify.

Sorrell also said then that the Student Suites project was delayed because the developer could not obtain financing for it as a result of the deed restriction.

The plan to rejuvenate the area for housing while leaving the original Dayton Daily News “bank” building — which is on the National Register of Historic Places — was announced in April 2013.

Source: Ludlow housing project halted

Considering that Rauch also “mistakenly” tore down a part of the historic part of the Dayton Daily news building that was supposed to stay, the developer could counter-sue, that Rauch damaged the viability of the project. Of course, the fact that Student Suites probably asked him to do it by “accident” won’t come out until the gloves come off in the courtroom.

Normally, in order to do demolition of any sort- there is a required performance bond- so as to make sure the job gets completed. Someone in City Hall should be getting fired over this, but since that someone is either Aaron Sorrell, or Acting City Manager Shelley Dickstein, no one is saying anything. After all, they engineered this cluster-duck.

Of course, I did a FOIA request on who got paid what by the city. I’m not a full time journalist, but lucky for us, the Dayton Daily news hasn’t fired Steve Bennish- their last remaining reporter with a brain, and he’s coming out with a long piece in tomorrow’s paper (available online this morning).

What bothers me, is that his answers from City Hall don’t match the ones I got.

Here is my request- and my follow up- with their answers:

From: David Esrati
Sent: Monday, October 26, 2015, 10:27 a.m.
To: Bankston, Toni
Subject: FOIA request-

Toni,
I talked to Stan Early about this on Sat. morning-
I want to find out the status of:
“The city of Dayton, which originally committed $1 million toward the project, increased that to $1.215 million in April 2014. The city’s share went toward demolition and cleanup of the former Schwind Building property.
Aaron Sorrell, Dayton’s director of planning and community development, said at the time that the money was from additional grants, not city general funds.”

Were the funds released? To whom? Whom were they supposed to go to?

Thank you

Her response:

On Oct 28, 2015, at 12:10, Freeman, Angela wrote:

Mr. Esrati:

Please be advised that the funds came from the Moving Ohio Forward Grant, which was used to demolish vacant and foreclosed properties.  We expended a total of $183,591.37.  The funds went to Student Suites to finish the demolition of the Schwind Building.

Angela Freeman | Executive Secretary | City of Dayton | Office of Public Affairs |

Hmmm, only $183.5K- to Student Suites.

So, they committed 1.2 million- but only release 182.5K something didn’t sound right.

Try again:

From: David Esrati
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015, 1:24 p.m.
To: Freeman, Angela
Cc: Bankston, Toni
Subject: Re: FOIA request-

So the million was never released?

And a response:

From: Freeman, Angela
10/28/15, 2:37 p.m.
To: David Esrati

In total, $938,591 was expended directly to Student Suites, under our development agreement.  Of that, $183,591.37 was an amendment utilizing MOF funds.  The larger, original balance was from the Development fund and was $755,000.00.

Other expenditures from the City were:

$220,000 to CityWide

$25,000 to Schwind Building Restoration Project

Who was the “Schwind Building Restoration Project” that got $25K and what did the taxpayers get back?

Who is asking about what CityWide did with almost a quarter of a million? And why aren’t they liable for the hole in the ground?

Why didn’t the city sue Student Suites- who got $183.5K and left us with a hole in the ground?

You think these questions would be answered in the Dayton Daily news piece coming tomorrow from Steve Bennish? But, no.

The best line in Bennish’s piece:

The city of Dayton, which owned the former Schwind building next door and agreed to have it demolished despite a deed restriction and lien on the property, now admits that was a mistake.

Source: Funding problems, legal woes stall downtown Dayton project | www.mydaytondailynews.com

 Because the city allowed a project to be rushed through, before financing was arranged and a development contract in place- the historic Cox building is now sitting rotting.
From the DDn:

A breakdown of city of Dayton expenditures also shows the city has spent $938,591 on the project. That doesn’t include $420,000 the city spent to pay off liens on the Schwind building, which has been torn down.

More city spending could follow. Dayton Interim City Manager Shelly Dickstein is concerned that another round of winter weather could damage the historic former newspaper building.

“We’ve looked at the cost to fill the hole so it’s not sitting there blighting the community and so that the building could be buttoned up and not exposed,” Dickstein said.

Rauch estimates the cost to finish the demolition would be $500,000 — to remove basement walls and fill in holes.

So now the demolition costs are up to $1.75 million.

The crazy part- this exceeds the cost projections former local developer Bill Rain had estimated to turn the Schwind into housing for students and still comply with the HUD restriction, but the city wouldn’t offer to help at all, finally forcing him out of the deal which he was given hope on by his “friend” Steve Budd at CityWide. Rain was going to use the DDn building as first floor retail and convert the upper floors of the very solid building into parking for the project. The historic Cox building- would have been adapted use as well.

However, local “power brokers” weren’t paid off, and Rain left for Tampa, where he’s done a series of much larger projects, including the conversion and adaptive reuse of a hospital into a long-term care and assisted living facility. (Full disclosure, Rain is a friend, and a client, I visited the hospital project several times and saw first hand what he did. I also witnessed his work on the St. Clair Lofts and Ice Avenue Lofts in Dayton).

The DDn even admits that they were all excited about these out of town hucksters with their no-money down deal:

The stalled state of the project is a stark contrast to the excitement that accompanied the original announcement from Cox Media Group that “a preliminary plan has been agreed upon for the sale and revitalization of the vacant historic Dayton Daily News building and adjacent property.”

“In addition to the sale of the historic Dayton Daily News’ building and property, Cox Media Group Ohio is contributing $1 million to restore and protect the legacy of the historic building,” the April 2013 announcement said.

The Cox people were most excited, but won’t say this- to get out of the property taxes on their empty building (they also demolished Channel 7 asap to avoid paying property taxes) and to not have to pay the Special Improvement District tax that supports the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Bennish does manage to get this gem into the story:

In the 2013 announcement, CMGO (Cox Media Group Ohio) said it had been working with the city of Dayton, Student Suites and a California-based nonprofit, United Housing and Community Services Corporation, to finalize a plan to build an $18 million multi-purpose complex on the property. Sinclair was not involved, but once the project was completed its students would have access to housing just a short walk from their classes.

United Housing would own the project “once it was leased up,” said Sorrell.

Attempts to reach United Housing were unsuccessful and there was no listing for the non-profit in a statewide telephone directory.

In a bond document on file with the city of Dayton, United Housing was listed as the borrower of the proceeds of the bonds issued by the port authority.

Student Suites, the document said, “gathers a team of architects, local contractors and financial experts to provide a completely finished project.”

Note the part about “bonds issued by the port authority”- yet earlier in the article Jerry Brunswick (withdrawn school board candidate), the current straw man in front of the Port Authority (another organization that screws up public money with little oversight):

Jerry Brunswick, president of the Dayton-Montgomery County Port Authority, said in the early stages of the project the plan was for the authority to issue tax-exempt bonds to finance up to $15 million. The bonds would be sold through an investment banker.

“I never heard that the (bankers’) investment committee approved it,” Brunswick said. “And we asked. We were told they never approved it. If there was a lien in front of the property, it would certainly impede a positive credit decision.”

He added: “A lien in front of you is not a great way to sell a project. The project still makes sense. We’d like to issue the bonds and we have a new program that can be a part of this.”

Uh, if it had a lien on it then, and now it has a lawsuit and an unfinished hole, I’d say this deal is dead.

Bennish briefly covered the buildings’ history- but, that back story is full of the institutional knowledge that is needed to really understand how we got to where we were today.

With the long-shuttered Arcade across the street, the Student Suites project was seen as a ray of hope for that part of downtown and possibly a catalyst for future development. Then came a snag.

A major legal hurdle involved the deed restriction and lien on the Schwind building, which was imploded as part of the development plan. HUD had imposed the restriction after funding a previous owner’s plan to put low-income housing there.

Records show the Schwind had a rough history. The city originally acquired the building from HUD in 2003 after the owner defaulted on a HUD-insured mortgage. The city transferred the building to Rain & Associates in July 2004, but the building then went into foreclosure and was sold in 2007 through a foreclosure sale to the Schwind Building Restoration Project. The city re-acquired the building in August 2013 as part of the Student Suites project.

The “snag” was fully known and ignored by the city and by Student Suites. This is what we normal working stiffs call incompetence. That Dickstein failed the Wayne Avenue Kroger – with no contract with a tenant before expending over $4 million to aggregate a 12 acre parcel, using multiple rounds of real estate options, blighting the neighborhood wholesale, and spending enormous sums on appraisals, and negotiations should have been the end of her and Sorrell.

Bennish didn’t talk to Rain. The Schwind Building Restoration Project was when Bob Schiffler took over the project. Schiffler had successfully and beautifully done the old Chemineer building at the corner of Fourth and Main- but, soon after they transferred the property to him- PNC took over our beloved local lender, National City Bank- and called his notes- forcing him to sell his beautiful mansion on Oakwood avenue and regroup. The Schwind was ancillary damage.

The education of Aaron Sorrell and Shelley Dickstein at taxpayer expense is getting expensive. Bennish gets this beautiful piece in:

Sorrell acknowledges that the lien and deed restriction were raised by Student Suites as a hurdle to financing, but he said the developer redesigned the project to make the Schwind site part of a second phase that would kick in when the lien was removed.

“We’ll take responsibility for the HUD lien,” Sorrell said. “But the developer has struggled to find financing.”

Dickstein too acknowledged that the city made mistakes. “Looking in the rear view mirror, the project moved forward without financing in place,” she said. “In hindsight, we would change things.”

Maybe the reason the developer has trouble finding financing is because it’s really hard to do much in Dayton or even Montgomery County, due to it having the second highest tax burden in the state? Add to that, the additional tax to support the Downtown Dayton Partnership which gets away with no blame on this mess. Lenders aren’t bullish on doing any renovations in Dayton- or the use of Historic Tax credits to finance them- not a single one has worked since the Cannery- and that went into foreclosure as well- despite a very high rental occupancy rate. (Rain was one of the initial developers in that project- but left early when it was pretty clear that his partners, Beth Duke and Dave Williams had a different vision. Williams, by the way, after flopping a big project in Clayton, got hired by CityWide).

Before he died, Alan Rinzler once told me that he owned the only building in the central business district (the Talbot Tower) that hadn’t been foreclosed on). This is how damaged the Downtown real estate market is.

Considering the city has been going to town issuing tickets to home owners in South Park for peeling paint (I completed painting 3 of my houses this summer)  it’s crazy that this boondoggle hasn’t brought the wrath of Nan onto someone (I’m pretty sure my neighbors are paying for my sins).

A contract between Student Suites and the city required Student Suites to provide the city “with a fully executed copy of a payment and performance bond issued by a surety authorized to do business in Ohio and acceptable to the city … which bond will guarantee completion of the developer’s obligations under this agreement and payment in full of all contractors, material suppliers and others who contribute to the design and construction of the project.”

Student Suites has not provided proof of the performance bond, Sorrell said, although it did pay to insure the demolition activities.

The city’s Housing Inspection Division last year issued a violation to Students Suites ordering the LLC to remove trash and debris from the area. The city says there was no response to the order, which was sent by registered mail to Student Suites’ Independence, Mo., offices.

Whoa, wait- the demolition permit was issued before the proof of performance bond was filed on a project this big? And Sorrell still has a job?

The final chilling end to Bennish’s piece, suggest more of our tax dollars will go to prop up this clusterduck:

Dayton officials are now working to see how they can at least secure the building from the weather before winter arrives.

“We are very concerned about getting it done in the next month or so,” Dickstein said. “With the freeze and rain there is exposure on the historic building. It’s an important project and we want to see it be successful.”

If no one comes to the table, Dickstein said, “We will explore our abilities to move forward with enforcement action on the historic building and move forward to preserve the building and remove the blight and fill in the hole in the ground.”

A good start would be firing Sorrell and Dickstein, and then liquidating CityWide Development to pay for the fixes, and then dismantle the Downtown Dayton Partnership and start returning the tax to the property owners. Those who want the common area maintenance performed by the “Ambassadors” (minimum wage workers in green shirts hired by an out-of-state firm)  can band together to hire their own street sweepers.

Then, maybe, we can learn to leave the development to the private sector and concentrate on providing basic city services like plowing snow and collecting leaves, and hanging basketball nets on city courts.

Hookah bar hell

Hookah Star Hookah Bar

Hookah Hell on Wayne Avenue

When I went in to contest my property taxes on Monday, Aug 3rd, I pointed out that since 2009, my street has been disrupted by frequent police calls to 121 Bonner Street. They average about one safety force call every other week. Yet, my property values have almost doubled in 15 years- despite me making zero improvements to my house- other than to add security systems after frequent break-ins.

The people on the “Board of Revision” tried to tell me this had nothing to do with my property values. I asked them if they were crazy and continued. I pointed out that I’d been told by prospective tenants that they wouldn’t live that close to the neighborhood cancer.

They asked when I showed them actual sale prices of houses much larger than my cottages for much less, if I’d sell my cottages for what I said they were worth- and I said no, but, I’d have a hard time having an open house, because the potential buyers would be treated to what I have to deal with on a daily basis- open pit burning of things that don’t smell like wood, loud music, arguments, people, truck exhausts as they rev the engine, shirtless males, with foul mouths, the list goes on. I will say that they do take very good care of their grass, and the house doesn’t have garbage all around like the two shitholes catty corner at Bonner and Johnson, where we’ve known drugs were being sold. One of them recently had a chimney topple and fall through a first floor roof right into the kitchen. A quick roof patch job was the solution- after the hole was open for a few weeks!

The house next door couldn’t keep good tenants in it, and has been on the market for coming on 7 or 8 months. It’s been broken into many times, the air conditioner stolen, even with security systems.

And now we come to today’s news:

Dayton police are investigating after a man was shot outside a hookah bar on Wayne Avenue Sunday morning.

Officers were first dispatched to disperse a large crowd at the Hookah Star and Smoke Shop at 1243 Wayne Avenue around 3 a.m. Sunday.

Dayton police Sgt. Roberta Bailey said that while officers attempted to clear the crowd both inside and outside the bar, around five shots were heard by officers from behind the establishment. A signal ‘99’ for officer assistance was requested when the shots were heard, prompting a response from several surrounding jurisdictions in Montgomery County.

Source: Shooting victim found outside Dayton hookah bar

When I first moved into the neighborhood, this oddly newer building on Wayne, with the parking lot in front, breaking the consistent street rhythm of buildings lined up like soldiers in formation along the sidewalk. It was a Lawson’s store- a lot like a UDF, but with the addition of a real deli, where you could get sliced meats and cheeses. I used to shop there. It closed long ago, and hasn’t had a steady tenant for years despite the proliferation of convenience stores. Apparently, a convenience store that can’t be seen until you’re passing it isn’t in high demand.

Last year, a young guy whom the neighborhood has come to know as “Tiger” turned it into the “Hookah Star Smoke and Juice Bar” since it doesn’t have a liquor license. Looking at the refuse outside the bar every Sunday morning will tell you that there is plenty of alcohol being consumed inside- either poured from flasks or the bottles that are littering our streets each week. Apparently, since there is no liquor, closing time is flexible as well- with the party going on all night long, inside and outside this “fine establishment.” The crowd is young, with a lot of 18- to 24-year-olds, who like to peel out around the ‘hood with their tuner cars as they leave between 3 and 5 a.m. Not long ago, the owner discharged his own gun inside to give the patrons a good idea of who’s the boss.

Neighbors have been complaining all summer long about the joint. Tiger built a sturdy fence around the back of his lot- to keep the patrons who use it like an outdoor party park, from being seen and video taped by the residents of Historic South Park. The Eagles lot next door, the tire store, South Park Tavern’s lots- after they were closed, had become additional overflow parking for the party palace.

Lots of calls to the police, to zoning, to the city, with very little response, until finally a few weeks ago, when the cops starting showing up en masse at 3 a.m. to shut the place down- making our neighborhood into a racetrack for the little rats scurrying away from the scrutiny of the law. We had more traffic on our side streets at 3 a.m. than all day, thanks to Hookah Hell.

Dayton Police had heard rumors of some massive parties coming across the city as the summer was ending. Curfew sweeps were to begin, picking up kids under 18 out after 11 p.m. The Hookah bar was one of the targets. The kids get taken to the patrol headquarters, where residents staff the phones, calling parents to come pick up their wayward lieges. Last night was to be another night of residents pitching in to do work we pay taxes for.

The sweep happened at 11, and the Hookah bar was a stop. Then again at 3 a.m., the DPD did as it did last week, the cops came to close the place down. Last night, things didn’t go quite as planned as one of the patrons decided to get shot by another. Don’t say you didn’t see this coming.

Multiple police calls to the same location almost invariably are a good predictor of future troubles. Somehow, our understaffed police force, impotent prosecutors, and lackluster leadership can’t seem to figure this out.

It will be interesting to see if the Hookah Star Smoke shop and Juice Bar is back in business after this last incident, or if we’ll keep having problems until someone actually dies.

Why it takes so long for Dayton to figure out how to take care of neighborhood cancers is beyond comprehension. Maybe if they really understood that quality of life is the number one factor in “economic development” – not brick sidewalks, and occupancy rates, we’d actually make some progress that would justify the tax hikes they believe are warranted. Even for those of us who have to live with a cancer nearby.

What can be done to help guide urban youth?

The “brilliant people” who think that this is rocket science- really don’t get it. This is the preamble and a few excerpts from the beginning of a  panel discussion in the DDn today.

Editor’s note: Teens acting out, pushing the envelope, is nothing new. Yet, when large groups come together to cause trouble at citywide events, as has occurred several times in downtown Dayton in the last year, it affects not just the youth and their families, but the city as a whole. Our partners at Dayton.com asked what can be done to build a more cohesive relationship with our city’s future citizens, ensuring a safe environment for all. The conversation Dayton.com staffers Vivienne Machi and Kamron Taylor had with four community activists touched upon issues relevant not just in Dayton, but in any community….

Brian LaDuca: If the problem is student/teen behavior as it relates (to) downtown, then I see the problem simply being a lack of well lit, invigorating communal spaces. Skate parks, music shells, dynamic store front designs (not necessarily actual stores).

Marlon Shackelford: The 5 percent of teens who are miseducated and misguided are guiding and educating the 95 percent that are bored, have idle time, are angry, and who are looking for something to do. There’s a lack of mentors and “womentors,” and a lack of efficient programs for teens.

Jonetta White: …We can no longer have this “hands-off” approach to being a community. Adults should feel responsible for ensuring the well being of their children and for the children of the community. It takes a community to raise a child, and adults cannot be afraid to step up in the lives of young people who may not have any other positive, adult influences.

Catherine Crosby: It impacts the attractiveness of the City overall. It impacts our ability to recruit companies and families to move into the City because it creates a perception that the City is unsafe.

Source: What can be done to help guide urban youth? | www.mydaytondailynews.com

I’m sorry- I’ve been to every park in this city. Every school yard. For the last three years, I’ve hung about 500 green basketball nets. I’ve cleared basketball courts of weeds and debris. This year, I am also running a social soccer program in my neighborhood. Today, we couldn’t play. You know why?

The city of Dayton can't cut their own grass.

The grass is taller than a full size soccer ball at Burns Jackson Park

The grass at Burns Jackson park was taller than a full size soccer ball this morning. The field had also been run over by several cars- since the cable fence is broken. This isn’t rocket science. When I moved to this neighborhood we had 2 basketball courts- now we’re waiting on them to refinish 1. We had playable tennis courts. People used to play softball all the time in the park- now you can’t see a mound, baselines and weeds are higher than the benches.

The city is about to spend a half a million on the old Society Bank/Third National building- despite it’s appraisal at $350K- and 2 other private bidders. They have no stated public use or public plan for the building. They have yet to do anything with any of the other 3 half-million dollar buildings they over paid for. They have money to buy other peoples property- but they can’t take care of their own.

Drive by Delco Park in Kettering anytime. All the soccer fields are well groomed, properly graded and have soccer goals. Look at the ball parks- full of people every night. Kids, adults. Dayton- nope. Can’t play soccer on a Sunday morning because Fred Stoval and company can’t cut the grass.

So, try as you might to do something with “urban youth”- good luck. After I started showing photos of the sorry condition of all of our basketball courts in my last run for City Commission- the city was guilted into spending a million bucks doing long overdue repair and replacement of courts across the city. Maybe by September they will finish the remaining basketball court in South Park- maybe not.

A city that can’t do basic maintenance has no business being in charge of anything. You want a community that people can be proud of? Learn to cut your grass.

 

Misguided water protection protests

Photo of BP fuel farm on Brandt Pike in Dayton Ohio

On Brandt Pike there is this little chemical storage facility- right over the aquifer.

The Dayton Citizens Water Brigade are absolutely right- we need to protect the Dayton well field and our aquifer.

However, protesting the changes in the boundaries and rules on hazardous chemical storage above the well field isn’t the real elephant in the living room.

No one wants to discuss the fact that the BP fuel storage facility is sitting directly over the aquifer with millions of gallons of toxic fuel- connected via underground pipes. Or that there are a few superfund sites already on top of the well field that are being managed, but are still dangerous.

If we really cared about our drinking water protection- we’d do the following things:

Work to move the BP Fuel farm away from our drinking water supply.

Find some large industrial users of water to start drawing down the well field. Since Delphi closed down and we got a Racino- one of our major users of industrial water dried up- and the water table has been rising. As it rises, it has better chance of connecting with superfund contamination- and of flooding downtown buildings- which are already running into issues with heavy rains.

The city attempted to jack up industrial bulk water at the same time as they jumped our residential water bills (yes, you pay double or more than what you used to). Cargill decided to drill their own wells- others left. Nice job City leaders.

The issue isn’t an additional cutting lathe or spray booth- the issue is large scale storage of industrial solvents, chemicals and, oh yeah, gasoline, on top of the well field, to prevent another Sherwin Williams type disaster.

Proper firewalls, retention systems, fireproof vaults, etc – can handle daily industrial production uses. Let’s update the Dayton Well Field Protection Ordinance to make common sense fixes.

Let’s get focused on what matters, and what could contaminate our water supply right now, not on the small stuff.