Friday May 2, 2008

Lessons in Urban Development

One of the most ambitious revitalization projects in Dayton involves a brownfield and an unlikely catalyst: the University of Dayton.

One of the most ambitious revitalization projects in Dayton involves a brownfield along the Great Miami River. The clean-up and redevelopment are being driven by what some urban planners might consider an unlikely catalyst — a private university.

That's one reason why University of Dayton representatives have been invited to Detroit next week to be part of the nation's largest conference on brownfield redevelopment. A five-minute video to be shown at the conference showcases what Robert Colangelo, CEO of the National Brownfield Association, calls "a signature project in the state of Ohio."

The University of Dayton is working with the city of Dayton, surrounding communities, the Ohio EPA, economic development officials and political leaders to transform a 50-acre former manufacturing site into an academic and mixed-use development.

Ted Bucaro, director of government and regional relations at the University of Dayton, and environmental consultant Todd Davis, CEO of Hemisphere Development, a brownfield redevelopment firm in Cleveland, will present UD's case study as part of a discussion called "Eds and Meds: Urban Anchors in Central City Redevelopment."  The talk is slated from 9 to 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, May 7, in Detroit's Cobo Center as part of "Roads to Revitalization," a national brownfield conference sponsored by ICMA (International City/County Management Association).

Davis, an environmental lawyer and author of Brownfield: A Comprehensive Guide to Redeveloping Contaminated Property, is a sought-after expert on converting abandoned or underused industrial sites.  "The only limit of what could happen is the imagination of both the campus and the community," he said.  "With the level of community input we're seeking, the sky is the limit for this piece of property."

University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran, Dayton City Manager Rashad Young and environmental consultant Craig Kasper, CEO of Hull and Associates, also are featured in the video.

"There's great faith, great trust in the University of Dayton. There are great expectations this will be an economic driver for the community," Curran said.  "As we go hand in hand with the community, we're assured of success."

UD continues to consult with campus and community leaders as remediation takes place.  Once the clean up is complete later this year, UD officials will entertain proposals from private developers that complement new restaurants and retail outlets on Brown Street as well as other proposed developments in the region. 

"I can’t think of very many sites across the city of Dayton that have the amount of potential that this does," Young said.

Nationwide, universities are increasingly catalysts for redevelopment in their communities.  The University of Dayton has a growing track record of collaboration with private developers, corporate partners and public agencies on such developments as the Genesis Project, University Place and Courtyard Dayton-University of Dayton. The 2006 "Savior of Our Cities" national survey of community revitalization ranked the University of Dayton No. 1 among Catholic universities and third overall (behind the University of Southern California and the University of Pennsylvania) in helping to save America's cities from blight. 

The University of Dayton is the largest private university in Ohio and ranks among the 10 best Catholic universities in the nation.