MidPark? Part of someone’s plan.

If you’ve never heard of MidPark- don’t feel left out. A lot of people have no clue. It’s the working name for the little stretch of land between downtown Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital in the “middle of South Park” – well sort of. And a bunch of money is about to be spent there.

First off, you have to understand there are two South Parks. The original planning district which extends from Main to Wayne and 35/Buckeye Street to Wyoming/Woodland Cemetery. Around 1984 a bunch of people in the neighborhood decided they wanted the protections of a historic designation and had to collect signatures of a percentage of property owners to make it happen. This was the beginning of the great divide- the historic section with around 840 structures- and the non-historic part- which has been losing buildings at a crazy pace. Gone are the amazing old Todd Theater/Burlesque- which would have made an awesome music venue, a bunch of cool historic 3-story buildings- that would fit right into the Oregon District (one real beauty got replaced with a Rally’s – which then got replaced with a drugstore that’s just as ugly- and never opened).

The dividing line for historic/non-historic on the West side of the ‘hood was defined by Cliburn Manor- a Dayton Metropolitan Housing “urban renewal” debacle that lasted about 35 years. It took the place of Martin Sheen’s boyhood home among other things. It was torn down and turned into a giant green space about 3 years ago. The neighborhood has its horribly named South Park Urban Gardens there- SPUG- and not much else.

Originally, the neighborhood group was the South Park Improvement Council (SPIC) and had been in existence since 1903 or some such. Around 1995, we had to come up with a new name, and reformulate to regain our 501-c3 status which was lost over bad bookkeeping. I was responsible for the new name: Historic South Park, Incorporated- or HSPI. It somewhat alienated the “non-historic” part of the ‘hood, even though that part participated very little in our efforts.

As part of the deal of the demo of Cliburn Manor, we were promised a seat at the table. Apparently, when that seat was going to be made available wasn’t clear, because CityWide, MVH and UD seem to have handed the land over to Oberer Development/Greater Dayton Construction and they’ve already selected an architect, Jason Sheets of Moda4.

The neighborhood found this out at its May meeting, on the 28th. There seemed to be some dismay at how this project had gotten this far before we were brought in. One resident was downright angry- demanding promises that the proposed market rate housing have a guarantee that it won’t be section 8 housing in 10 years. She’d been lied to by DMHA 35 years ago- and wanted to make sure this wasn’t a repeat. Others thought new market rate housing would somehow lower prices of our existing property by glutting the market. Not quite sure of how that would happen, since most of our homes rent and sell for less than what they can build new for, but not everyone understands real estate- even if they are a so called “investor.”

What is being proposed is a mixed use 3-4 story building with retail/office on the first floors, possibly office space on 2nd and residential on 2-4. There are no drawings. There are no site plans, at least that’s what we were told. The area will be from Burns Avenue to Kline St, on the East side of Warren. There are two houses remaining on the strip- one belonging to former candidate for Dayton City Commission, Joe Lutz. He and his neighbor are holdouts against the man. Probably a good strategy, considering a less than reputable landlord got $150K each for two crap houses a bit further up on the Brown Street stub where Adams St. dead ends into Brown, just North of Oak St. Those properties were bought by a mysterious shell LLC called Rudy 32 LLC.

If you need a visual of a possible building, look at the corner of Stewart and Warren, where Miller Valentine built a butt fugly monstrosity for Grad students upstairs and retail on the first floor. It houses Fusian, Arbys, Bad Frog, Potbelly, Flyer Spirit, Smashburger, Shish Wraps and a Fifth Third branch- and has had trouble filling up thanks to bad design (it’s crazy difficult and expensive to route fans and vents for a kitchen through the upstairs) and it’s seriously under-parked.

Back when the Cliburn site was being considered as a possible Kroger location, somehow, via the Hospital, we were told Kroger couldn’t go there- and look, Midland Atlantic, the Kroger preferred developer showed us some relabeled plans from another development as a possibility for this space. The developer that they were fighting, was the local guy- with a proven track record- Jeff Samuelson from JZ Companies. He’s the one who started the revitalization of Brown Street single-handedly by bringing us Panera, Chipotle, Penn Station, Jimmy Johns, Skyline etc. Why he wasn’t invited to this new party is something we may never know. Maybe it’s because he did his magic without cutting the hospital in? Maybe because he drove prices and values up before they could buy it all?

Tomorrow, Tuesday June 11, between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., the neighborhood and any other interested parties are invited to come to discuss the future of this piece of land. The meeting will be at the new Coco’s at 250 Warren Street in the private dining rooms in back. Better late than never.

In reality, the neighborhood had nothing more than a handshake promise on development plans. At this point, it’s not public money going in, although, it’s really unclear who put what money up to aggregate this space and was the Cliburn site ever properly sold at fair market value. CityWide Development is a quasi-public slush fund that has little oversight, and a lot of public tax dollars to play with.

And you also should ask, considering Dayton has a crazy high vacancy rate of both commercial space and residential property, both Dayton proper and regionally- having sprawled our way past our means, is more space really needed? Arguments are being made for new GE EPIS Center employees needing new options, as well as hospital and UD employees.

What the residents really want is a new grocery option. A Trader Joe’s in this space would have everyone happy- a Whole Foods or Fresh Fare would do too. It’s too bad Dorothy Lane Market wants to distance itself as far from non-white residents as possible, and has declined every overture to come north. There is also talk that UD is trying to entice a new grocery, possibly the people out of Cleveland who had been talking about a downtown location in the old Greyhound station in the Transportation Center garage.

What the demographers seem to be missing is that UD students aren’t really being counted as residents or rooftops in the equation. They think they all eat on campus in the dining halls. In the last few years, UD students have been getting wealthier and wealthier- as the prices have risen. Their Chinese students aren’t coming over to live in the Ghetto- instead, opting for the Greene. Someone said they saw a student in an Aston Martin the other day, wouldn’t surprise me at all. Considering that MVH, UD and the future GE center’s combined wages probably are making the area one of the highest income areas- that isn’t supported by a proper grocery (a South Park resident/foodie has been doing pricing comparisons between Kroger and finding gross differences in pricing and product selection and quality- more on that in the future).

Arguments could be made that MidPark is nothing more than urban sprawl infill- but, considering the city is also about to spend millions repaving and beautifying this stretch of road to match the section of Brown between Wyoming and Irving, maybe this is the new downtown Dayton, that’s viable?

We’ll find out more tomorrow. See you there?


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