Sunday, September 14, 2008

Suburban History: The First Office Park off OH 725

Over a half-century of suburbia but next to no history.

Daytonology aims to fill in those blanks with occasional posts on the historical geography, economics, sociology, and urban form of Dayton Suburbia, the place where the majority of us live or work.

People work in suburbia, with the Dayton Mall/OH 725 area being a major employment center. For the Dayton Mall /OH 725 corridor the first offices were purpose- built in the mid 1960s for Monarch Marking and Huffy corporate headquarters, followed by the NCR training center.

It wasn’t until after the Dayton Mall opened that the first spec (speculative) offices were built. Based on my research probably the first spec office park was Governor’s Square, on OH 725 in Washington Township. Probably built between 1970 and 1973, the first four buildings of this office park first appear on a 1973 photo revision of a USGS topo map, as does the start of Lyons Road, not yet connected to Yankee Street.

The location of Governor’s Square in today’s suburban landscape (outlined in yellow) (and for this and the next pix you can click on them to enlarge)

The same location in the 1973 photo-revision

As this was a photo revision and not field-checked, the USGS cartographers missed that these were four buildings, not two, paired around landscaped malls. A later aerial, from the I-675 environmental impact statement, shows the four original buildings, plus an additional four to the south.

The EIS aerial probably dates from the mid 1970s (1977 or before), and shows how Lyons has been extended to Yankee Street; extension west to Washington Church would happen as part of I-675 construction, as would realignment of Yankee).

Developement is still very light in this area, indicating that the 1970s was maybe a time of stagnation.

Governor’s Square was the start of western Washington Township as an employment center. There were other 1970s developments, and we’ll look at them later, but this was one of the first.

By 1990 the 1980s boom filled in the open space with a strip center and more offices and Washington Village Drive has appeared, connecting Lyons with OH 725. There were no physical changes in the 1990s.

But, by 2006 or 7. Governor’s Square was partially demolished and the land redeveloped for retail as part of the ongoing recycling of the OH 725 commercial strip. Perhaps this also indicates a softening of the local submarket for older office space.

The missing office buildings are shown in yellow outline.

The 1970s-era Lyons Road form OH-725 to Yankee, showing a landscaped median. Governors Square office park is to the left. This early-1970s design is an illustration of how site development was responding to early critiques of sprawl by making things "greener", softening the impact of auto-oriented develpment.

The 1980s extension of Lyons (built as part of the I-675 construction) would dispense with the generous landscaping.

Governors Square building. The buildings originally had a very dark brown soffit, but the complex was remodeled and updated in the 1990’s, adding new signs, light standards, and the soffit was rebuilt to add more visual interest.

Note the trees popping up in the back, from the mall courts.

The basic concept. Buildings are paired around landscaped courts or malls. One has a choice of leasable space opening to the mall area or to the parking.

The architecture is very low-key generic/functional, so it’s these landscaped courts that make the place. Perhaps a borrowing from the retail mall concept, they are a pleasant surprise, and maybe another indication of a humanist design intention, to do suburbia as something greener and better planned, while still being auto-centric.

I think the original lighting was those soffit lights, with the lighting standards in the mall coming later?

Recycling Governor’s Square.

In the 00’s Governors Square was partially demolished. Three of the four original buildings were torn down (the ones closest to OH 725) and the land redeveloped into three retail parcels. Two were developed as a Chick-fil-a and Walgreens. One site is still for sale.

But as part of the revelopment a back-circulation was established through the site, permitting one to wind ones way through the back parking of the retail buildings to the rear parking lots of a next-door strip center.

On this aerial the old Governors Square buildings are shown in a yellow shading, and some features labeled (including curb cuts between rear parking, an abandoned parking lot, and one of Dayton’s strip center bars, which open to the rear of strip centers here)

The vacant lot, with the last of the original Governors Square buildings. This fa├žade would have opened onto one of the landscaped malls, which has been removed for an access drive.

Some original landscaping is left, though, like the lone tree behind the sign. The property is being marketed by a developer specializing in retail development.

Landscaping along OH 725, showing how things are not all pavement. Here there is some lawn buffering development from the street, and room for a sidewalk. These sycamores might be left over from the original 1973 landscaping, and now provide a nice screen to the new commercial development to the left. Note the sidewalk coming in from the left….

…this comes in from this Walgreen’s. Being an old Chicago guy its nice to see a Walgreen’s as they were pretty common on busy corners in the city, near bus transfer points. As an aside , Walgreen’s has a place in retail history as the first place to mass market cosmetics, due to a distribution deal with Max Factor back in the 1920s.

Chick-fil-a with the big US flag. This brand has moved from mall food courts to free standing stores, but yer humble host still prefers Kentucky Fried Chicken original recipe.

Closing with this abandoned parking lot. Curb cut at the back of the lot, to the right, lets one drive into Governors Square or the adjacent unnamed office park. No overlays, no striping, just crumbling asphalt. This would be an interesting redevelopment site, but for what?

...and Governor’s Square offices in the distance. In 1973 what you would be seeing would be a prairie or some row crop, not asphalt.


kevin said...

Remember the decor of these office buildings up until 4 years ago? Circles, obnoxious letters and colors: it was great. Once Walgreens and Chic-fila came in and knocked down a couple of the buildings, they changed the exterior of these old office buildings, if I recall correctly.

I noticed that one of your old maps marks the church location on the NW side of where I-675 currently comes through. I think the old cemetery is still there next to Midas?

Thanks for the post, Jeffery. It's easy to forget how recently history is erased. I vaguely remember the area Rt. 48 now over passes I-675 at Cross Pointe.

Jefferey said...

The circles and colors are still there. It was a 1990s updating, moving away from the sedate 1970s modernist style. After newer office space opened up in the area I suspect the owners felt they needed to do some updating to keep the place competetive.

That cemetery is still there with some historic markers or plagues in front. I need to get out of the car and check that place out.