Thursday, February 28, 2008

Mendelsons/Delco: Lesson From Louisville

Mendelsons! AKA the old Delco plant, this great battleship of a building is probably, after the Arcade complex and Mead Tower, the biggest white elephant downtown.

The two Mendelson buildngs are all that’s left of the giant Delco industrial complex downtown,

Soon to be vacant, if not already, would it be too expensive to tear down just for the sake of tearing it down? Some of the local Creative Class advocates have suggested demolishing old factories (but keep the “cool “ones) to get away from Dayton’s rust belt image, or take the pragmatic approach that if a use can’t be found the building should go.

Yet For The Love of Dayton has an excellent post on how this particular building, with its massive fa├žade and big water tower is such an iconic structure, as much a landmark as the Courthouse and Kettering Tower, and makes a suggestion for re-use as a shopping venue.

Louisville also has an example of saving an equally massive building but also with some selective demolition.

The Belknap complex, right on the Ohio River downtown, was vacant in the 1980s, when the hardware giant went out of business and, like Delco, was a collection of big loft buildings

The main structure was such a massive landmark, dominating Main Street and east part of downtown, there was interest in saving it
I don’t know the details, but apparently a local corporation, Humana, was looking to expand, and selected the Belknap building. It was remodeled into the ‘Humana Waterside Building” in 1991, with Humana as the anchor tenant. Some of the adjacent loft buildings were demolished, but others saved and turned into other uses, including an unsucssfull attempt at a business incubator (Clocktower Building).

Humana has around 6,000 people working in and near of this building (this is not their only location in downtown Louisville), and it's corporate policy to stay on Main Street downtown.

Some interior shots of the the lobby area. This is such a deep building that one can open up the inside into atriums, illuminated by fancy lighting effects, to make up for the lack of daylighting.
I think there is a real good precedent for the Mendelsons building in what happened with Belknap, but this would require a growing local corporation to choose to relocate or stay downtown, rather than move to suburbia or build new.

This situation of a likely corporate tenant doesn’t exist in Dayton, as nearly all potential corporate tenants chose suburbia.

And other uses like shopping seem remote (though I could see a giant outlet mall, as this was the fate of textile mills in New England and old factories in Reading PA).

So maybe this is, along with the Frigidaire lofts, another candidate for demolition.


Anonymous said...

As someone who has been through most of the two remaining factory buildings Mendelson owns- I couldn't agree more. I suggested that these buildings could have held CareSource long ago- and was dismissed.
The construction of these buildings can't be matched today- and with a little creative love, they could be everything "Ballpark Village" is supposed to be plus some.
Unfortunately, they are owned by Sandy Mendelson and not a player like Mandalay Entertainment, so no attention and adoration.

Anonymous said...

So, is the tunnel still there, under 1st between the two buildings?

Anonymous said...

Have not lived in Dayton in forty years. It is very sad that the community does not value its historic buildings. There has to be a use for this building. Nursing home, assisted living downtown. Very sad to hear about Julienne being torn down. Went to visit the school five years ago an it was in fine shape. Vacant but in fine shape. No way to replace those hardwood floors, stained glass windows etc. A piece of history worth saving. Could have been on the National Historic Registry.

Anonymous said...

Please do not dispair everyone