Whaley finally announces development plans for West Dayton

Ohio Medical Marijuana logoIn an early morning announcement, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley unveils her plan to revitalize West Dayton, promising to bring life back to several large failed city projects on the west side. “I’m glad to announce that the City of Dayton has been selected as one of the cannabis grow operators by the State of Ohio  Medical Marijuana Control Program.

The former McCall printing plant across from the soon to be renovated DeSoto Bass housing will become a indoor cultivation site, and promises to create 20 jobs. “These aren’t high paying jobs, but we know we will find plenty of highly qualified employees nearby, since I’ve been told that illegal cannabis cultivation has been going on over on the West Side for quite some time” said Whaley. The OMMCP is also allowing the city to do a scatter-site program, with a second operation in the former Kroger location on Gettysburg Ave.  It will include a dispensary and in a novel twist, Premier Health Partners will be opening up a “Doc in a box” location to provide access to prescriptions of medical marijuana on the spot- since there are limited medical offices on the West Side.

Whaley says that the revenues from the West Dayton cannabis cultivation and dispensary will be used to back fill the general fund, which has been severely drained from all the investments the city has made in Downtown projects under her watch; like the new Student Suites project on the old Dayton Daily News site, River Run, The Levitt Pavillion, the arcade, new downtown housing, and for future investments in the Fairgrounds property.

This will be the pilot program for government owned medical marijuana facilities in Dayton, when asked how she negotiated this deal with the Republicans in Columbus, Whaley said she had a sit down with governor Kasich, she showed him the quality of locally grown cannabis that had been seized on the West Side, and once they both smoked a bowl, the deal was done. Kasich’s aides, said that the Governor wasn’t prepared to comment, but that he would highly recommend the Dayton branded pot if it’s even remotely as good as what Whaley had been smoking for the last 3.5 years of her Mayorship.

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.

The cheap bastards in Dayton City Hall

When I first got involved in my second career as an unpaid citizen of Dayton, I found our city to be overly bureaucratic. We had our neighborhood organization, that got things done- and then we had the mysterious “Priority Boards” which were a huge bureaucratic buffer zone between the neighborhood and the City Commission. They had offices, staffed with several full-time employees, who made pretty decent money. More money than the city commissioners who were part-time, and supposedly the brain trust that was steering our city to prosperity.

When I, or anyone else would go to the City Commission with a complaint, they’d say “have you been to your priority board about this?” As if it was a crime to actually talk to and expect action from those we elect.

The city patted itself on the back often for being such a model of “citizen participation”- when in fact, it was just another place to hire people into patronage jobs. It really didn’t require any skill to work for the priority boards- it was all about who you knew.

So, each neighborhood had to have its own organization- a neighborhood association, which ideally was a non-profit (a 501 c-3 by the tax code), and had to hold elections to have at minimum a leader, a treasurer and a recording secretary, and then, depending on the size of your neighborhood elected representatives to your priority board seats- which could be anywhere from 1 to 4 in our case. The problem was that the neighborhoods, planning districts and precincts didn’t follow any of the same boundaries- making for coordinating the many heads more like a Hydra than a true democratic process.

At one point, to make sure the neighborhoods had a say- additional seats were created per organization, be it a full fledged neighborhood association or even a block club. Throw out proportional representation- just try to fill the rooms- to keep the patronage pogues looking busy.

The system was expensive- with offices in the seven “districts” of the city. Southeast held about 40% of the population- and always seemed to have the most “representation.” The downtown priority board was an afterthought- and didn’t even have a full-time staffer. The historic districts were split between all the priority boards- when in fact- they, along with downtown, were the ones who were most alike- and could have had a really strong voice if they hadn’t been segregated.

While the city was still flush with cash- thanks to corporate headquarters like Reynolds & Reynolds, Mead, Standard Register, NCR- it was easy to blow money on the priority board patronage jobs- which could be counted on around election time to help the Democratic Party have an Army to make sure their chosen candidates got elected. All was good and fine…

Until, well, the system broke and a Republican managed to get elected Mayor. Mike Turner, managed to tick off Reynolds & Reynolds CEO David Holmes- getting Holmes to put a ton of money behind Tony Capizzi to challenge Turner- and when Turner won again- Holmes took his company to Kettering.

There were other things at play, some pre-Turner, with Tom Danis buying off Police Chief Tyree Broomfield to step down, games played with an “Architectural review committee” slowing down the city-funded Arcade tower project- so Danis could get his Cit/Fed tower built first- and who knows what the Beerman family was doing to keep their real estate deals going- where they were making a fortune off the construction of 675, and CJ McLin and his daughter Rhine were doing the same with the 35 West deal.

The priority board system was a way to make the poor citizens of Dayton think they mattered, when in fact, they were just there to keep the party in power so that the friends and family of the Monarchy of Montgomery County could continue to kiss the wealthy asses of those who really were supporting our city.

I’d advocated for getting rid of the priority boards from day one- to have neighborhood presidents meet directly with the city manager 4 times a year. Note- the city manager- not the mayor or the commission, they aren’t supposed to be the ones running our city, but we’ve long forgotten that.

So, in today’s paper, we find out that what’s left of the vaulted citizen participation system is about $96K a year thrown out to the paupers to play pretend with- compared to a budget that used to run close to $8 million a year:

The city provided about $13,000 for 27 neighborhood festivals this year.

The city also awarded $83,046 in mini-grants to 20 neighborhood projects this year, three times the amount in 2014.

Source: Dayton pushes policy reforms

I always found it odd, that 25 years ago- our neighborhood thought it was a privilege to get to ride around on the back of a trash truck once a month on a Saturday morning to pick up the garbage that our overpaid trash collectors skipped.

People in other communities would wonder why would you pay your taxes to spend your Saturdays doing “community service” without a court order.

This is the travesty of Dayton. While the people who are still here fighting to make their community a nice place to live, and paying the 2nd highest income tax in the county, the cheap bastards in city hall are bragging about “awarding back less than $100,000 a year” to help those who volunteer- while giving multi-million-dollar tax breaks to General Electric, while raising trash and street light fees, and still having no problem buying buildings for half a million each- for which there is no public use.

Yeah. “Cheap bastards” is actually a nice name, for people who are really taking a crap on the people they represent. And, one other thing, you shouldn’t have to work so hard to have a great, safe, clean neighborhood. You should be able to spend your time living your life.

It’s not an enforceable law until someone gets shot

Hookah Star Hookah Bar

Hookah Hell on Wayne Avenue

The Hookah Star Smoke Shop and Natural Juice Bar wasn’t a normal retail establishment. It wasn’t a bar either- it was a party palace, especially after 2am when normal bars closed.

It’s been a sore spot for the South Park neighborhood almost as soon as it opened. Loud music, trash, and the patrons running around the ‘hood at all hours on Friday and Saturday nights. The police had finally started showing up the last few weeks to shut it down and clear it out. They also were checking it out on curfew sweeps the last few weekends at 11- to catch kids under 18 out after 11.

On Aug 3rd after one of the police raids, the owner posted this on his FB feed:

Nimr Ibrahim shared his post. August 3 at 2:46pm · Nimr Ibrahim People think we shut down but we not we was over capacity we was jumping and they come and fuck the night up but its all good we still jumping ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Source: (1) Nimr Ibrahim

So he thinks he’s just in trouble for “over capacity” due to fire code. Apparently, the City doesn’t do a good job of explaining permitted uses to him. He was operating the wrong kind of business in the building at the wrong time.

After the shooting early Sunday morning as the police came for a 3am roust, the city finally takes zoning seriously:

The city’s zoning department, on Monday, told the Hookah Star & Smoking Shop, 1243 Wayne Ave. to cease occupancy immediately because the zoning district does not allow nightclubs.

“To me, it’s crazy. They consider a hookah bar a night club – it’s not a nightclub,” said owner Namr Ibrahim. He cited the absence of alcohol, a dance floor and strippers at the Hookah Star to support his claim.

Neighborhood groups said the smoke shop has allowed large crowds to gather at all hours of the night and early morning.The business has been a magnet for noise and troublemakers who often visit the shop after the bars close at 2 a.m., according to neighbors.

Source: Dayton moves to close hookah bar after shooting | www.mydaytondailynews.com

Hmm, not a night club- but “we was jumping.”

No other competent city would have let this go on for so long. Here is a legitimate public nuisance, ruining the quality of life for a neighborhood that has done everything within its power to pick itself up- so successfully in fact, that the property tax values were raised, when everyone elses went down.

If the city spent more time doing the things they were supposed to be doing, instead of buying vacant buildings downtown with no stated public use, for $150K over appraised value, maybe no one would have gotten shot.

Then again, maybe that’s what it takes to get laws enforced in Dayton.

Slush fund, Architect and Developer: the three ring circus of public/private partnerships

The very first slide started with an oops, another oops, and another oops.

Up steps Steve Budd of CityWide Development (the slush fund) with a slide of the holdings of CityWide, Miami Valley Hospital and maybe even the University of Dayton between 35 and Wyoming Street along the Brown/Warren corridor. And, no, we won’t mention the words we used to call this development (Mid-Park) because we know it ticks off the people we’re talking to (South Park) about our little circus.

The map with the yellow line was showing “all the property we own” except for the little antique shop at Oak and Warren according to Mr. Budd. Except he quickly was asked if he owned Jimmie’s Ladder 11, Spin City- and oh yeah, the two houses that are left on the West side of Warren- where the powers that be haven’t made an offer with enough commas in it yet.

Aerial view of Warren Street

The “owned” area in yellow- the red, added by me, is the stuff that’s not owned by the developers including Spin City, Jimmie’s Ladder 11, the Antique Shop and the two houses on the west side of Warren

I’ve marked the known “not owned” in red- inside the yellow border of “owned” for clarification. No mention was made of the fact the city had “misdeeded” some of the real estate in question in a lot links deal- and someone may be holding out for another pretty paycheck.

Why they were talking to the neighborhood at all is a really good question. At no point have they come to us, the neighborhood, and actually asked what we want- just what we want to see as tenants in their grand building plans- you know, the norm- a grocery store, a hardware store, a book store…

The parcel in question came into their hands when DMHA/GDPM gave up on their “projects” off Warren which were part of the 60’s 70’s “urban renewal” programs- where they tore down perfectly good housing stock that had lost its luster and replaced it with crap construction of ugly buildings dropped out of the sky into our ‘hood. The promise then was that it was going to be “senior housing” – the only thing senior about it, “Cliburn Manor,”  when I moved into South Park in 1986 was it looked like it was near death.

So the slush fund has to make sure they have another success story in the portfolio of mismanaged tax-dollar aided projects, and is bequeathed the federal property to manage. They seek out a developer, who is willing to take a “great risk” building something in the city of Dayton- so they promise to make them whole, no matter how silly the project scope and scale is.

In this case, the developer is Oberer. The same people who did the funky deal on the Dille Farm, where they built a Costco in Centerville, but expect ambulances from Sugarcreek Township- as once again, government had inserted itself unnaturally in the middle of a real estate deal. They have hired, at considerable expense, some research firm to tell them that there is a market for the 200 plus units they’ve plotted and planned for the aforementioned area. Of course, they are going to do this deal with OPM (other people’s money) and are guaranteed by the taxpayer-funded slush fund that they won’t lose a dime- since we know we’ll make income tax go up while you build it- and who cares if anyone actually comes. They just have to “git ‘r done” and have something rise from the green space. Filling the space won’t even fall back on them. Look at how CityWide still hasn’t found a ground floor tenant for the old Elder Beerman/ReyReyTAC building downtown.

If you need an example of another project that was done like this, go study the history of One Arcade Tower/One Dayton Center/Fifth/Third Center– or whatever they call it at the corner of Third and Main. The one that wasn’t supposed to be built until 33% of it was leased- but, we ignored it and built it anyway…. and lost our butts.

In our third ring of the circus, we have the architect. While an equal player at this point- he’s really going to end up the ringmaster later, once construction begins, but for now, he’s just another part of the distraction engine that’s trying to divert attention from the fact that Dayton is looking at these new construction projects like the Cleveland Browns do when playing the Patriots- let’s keep throwing Hail Mary passes because we’ve already lost 8 of 12 and aren’t going anywhere.

The architect, in this case, Jason Sheets of Moda 4, is a super talented guy who makes cheap look chic, and clean and classy. The only problem is, we’ve already got a few examples up Brown Street that make anything look like an improvement- namely the horribly ugly and dysfunctional “University Place” that Miller Valentine built at the corner of Stewart and Brown- which still isn’t full- years later- and almost every restaurant has taken a year to build out- because of poor planning by the “architects” – and then the other Miller Valentine embarrassment- the heinously ugly mishmash finish Caldwell Street housing that replaced the irreplaceable Frank Z building on Brown. His role in this is to keep billing while everyone else argues about the plan.

Moda 4 just completed the Goodwill Building across from Coco’s- the one with the expansive parking lot- and the stark cold exterior. Not exactly a good match for eclectic South Park- but, we’re trying here.

We’ve already got a CityWide case study up in Fairgrounds- where the Genesis Project built a whole bunch of funky houses and row houses for “DINCS” and hospital employees and UD Profs- that was promised never to become student housing (they lied). Where roofs are leaking less than 10 years out, taxes are kicking in at the same time, and what was supposed to be full of homeowners- is now in flux.

As the homeowners filed out, wondering if what they’d been shown was anything like what will be built, one after another in the Goodwill parking lot- looked across the street at Marvin Gardens, which is owned by St. Mary Development Corp.- and thought- why can’t they build something that looks like that?

Marvin Garden Apartments on Warren Street

Marvin Gardens Apartments as seen from Goodwill parking lot

So as neighbors sat and looked at the presentation, with mouths agape, wondering what planet these people were from, they were serving their ultimate, yet, unrevealed role they will be used for in the future.

As the project sputters and spurts, the three-ring acts will be able to point at the neighbors and blame them for the delays, mistakes and failures that are to come, as the city shirks its responsibility to do what it’s supposed to- mainly sweep and repair streets, provide public services and safety forces and keep the lights on.

The only question that really needs to be answered is why the property wasn’t just sold off to the highest bidder and let them do as they please?
In the end, the results will probably be about the same.