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City Joins With Unnamed Investor To Repair Downtown Dayton Arcade

Dayton Arcade Interior, 2013
Tom Gilliam
Dayton Arcade Interior, 2013

Dayton City Commission has voted to put money towards upkeep for the historic downtown Dayton Arcade, and an out-of-state investor is joining in.

The Arcade’s story is long and sordid: it’s been sitting empty for over 20 years, despite its architectural beauty and historical value. The current owners have effectively abandoned the property and long since stopped paying property taxes, but an effort by the city to hand off the building in a tax lien sale has also failed.

Earlier this year, a study commissioned by the mayor’s Arcade Task Force found the price of demolition is almost impossibly high, ranging from $8 to $12 million. But there’s also a cost to keeping it stable for possible redevelopment.

On Wednesday the City Commission agreed with the Task Force’s recommendation to cover at least that stabilization cost. The city will put $450,000 towards a contract to stabilize the building for three to five years.

“It gets worse and worse every year,” says Mayor Nan Whaley, “so you want to nip it in the bud.”

The biggest news is that the remaining $250,000 needed to keep the building from falling apart is coming from an out-of-state investor city officials have declined to name.They say the end goal is to remake the Arcade into mixed-use housing and retail, which the task force estimated could cost up to $60 million. The unnamed investor hasn’t necessarily agreed to pursue that larger project, but these first steps are a glimmer of hope after a long time in limbo.

“This is a long road with many steps, and this is one small step in the direction of redevelopment, but certainly no promises by the city or this developer that that’s coming,” Whaley says. “One of the problems with the Arcade is that people have grand visions that aren’t financed, and frankly we just don’t want to do that to the community.”

Lewis Wallace is WYSO's managing editor, substitute host and economics reporter. Follow him @lewispants.