Tuesday June 12, 2007

Revitalization

The University of Dayton is moving ahead on an 11-acre riverfront redevelopment project, including Building 26 commemoration.

As part of a $2.54 million Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant, the University of Dayton will request bids from certified professionals under the Ohio EPA Voluntary Action Program to oversee an 11-acre riverfront redevelopment project.

The work includes cleaning up soil, taking out asbestos from Building 26 and removing the building, which is not eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The building is expected to be torn down in the fall.

Brady Kress, president and CEO of Dayton History and a member of UD's Historical Stewardship Group, led members on a 90-minute tour of the building on June 7 to determine what architectural elements could be preserved. The group, comprised of preservationists, community leaders and UD officials, compiled a list, including art deco sandstone surrounding the main entrance, crown molding from the front vestibule and limestone art deco curves and finishes around the roof. In addition, pallets of stone lintels and original bricks will be salvaged for use in telling the story of Building 26, which served as a top-secret site during World War II for the development of a code-breaking machine.

The Historical Stewardship Group will work with Burt Hill, UD's master planner, to explore options for commemoration, such as a collection of oral histories, public art, a plaza or museum-style display.

UD spent nearly two years meeting with preservationists and investigating whether Building 26 had retained any historical integrity. On May 31, the Ohio Historic Preservation Office confirmed that the heavily altered structure appears to be ineligible for the National Register. That opinion verified a January study by ASC Group Inc., specialists in historic architectural assessments.

UD has explored alternatives to removing the building. According to Martin-Beachler Architects, it would cost about $3 million just to demolish the three 1960s additions to the building and replicate the original façade. A complete restoration of the building would cost millions more. Last year, UD turned to the Miller-Valentine Group to assess the use and availability of historic tax credits, which are available if a building is listed on the National Register. UD officials also have investigated the feasibility of adaptive reuse with Burt Hill, Martin-Beachler Architects and the Miller-Valentine Group.

"Renovation is possible, but not practical. It doesn't make economic sense to invest in a building that has lost its historical integrity," said Jeff Funovits, Burt Hill's project manager for the master plan.

Daniel J. Curran, president of the University of Dayton, reaffirmed UD's pledge to work with the Dayton community to create a lasting, significant and visible means of telling the story of the people and technological advances that occurred on the site.

"I respect the passion of those who wanted to save the building. I also appreciate the support of others who recognized that the building lost its historical integrity decades ago and know that as a tuition-driven university, UD cannot justify spending millions of dollars to save it," he said. "Working with the community, we can, and will, honor history while we build for the future."

Community leaders support UD's decision. "The development of this land is important to the region. It has high economic development value and the potential to attract high-value jobs and new businesses. It is the most developable piece of property in the city of Dayton," J.P. Nauseef, president and CEO of the Dayton Development Coalition, wrote in a letter to OHPO. "As a community, we need to respect the past, but focus on the future and support the University's leadership in taking on this difficult development challenge."

The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce also backs UD's position. "We honor those who worked at this one-time NCR site and feel confident the University will honor their legacy," Phil Parker, president and CEO, wrote in a letter to OHPO.

The University of Dayton purchased 49 acres of land, which included Building 26, another building on Brown Street now known as the College Park Center, two parking lots and two soccer fields, for $25 million from NCR in June 2005. Most of NCR's manufacturing facilities on the site were demolished in the 1970s, and the property has remained largely unused since then. The site is considered a brownfield, but only a portion requires clean up, depending upon development plans. UD's complete master plan for its 259-acre campus is expected to be finished this fall, but UD has already committed to working with private developers to construct a mixed-use project on the 11-acre riverfront portion when it applied for the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund grant.

Contact Teri Rizvi or Cilla Shindell at 937-229-3241.