Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mid Block Connectors

The mid-block connector and transportation center re-work concepts continue to intrigue.

As excellent as the Rogero-Buckman design is, it drops the ball with the mid-block connector concept. It seems the idea of working in a continuation of the Riverscape/Third Street walkway was not developed too much by most of the schemes.

Here is a take on how to maybe work this into the Rogero-Buckman desing, playing on the "neon district" concept by putting in an accent, maybe some sort of tower, that would be visible to streetcar passengers coming up north, and then a neon trestle or lighting feature crossing the street into the space between the Lofts @ St Clair and old Journal-Herald building, which would be the start of a walk to 3rd.

...and how that might work. The idea is to hold the walk close to buildings, and maybe develop a little plaza or parkette on the way to 3rd or 4th. Lighting could be part of the design. The chamfering the of the walk beyond the openings between the buildings would be to not take up too much parking.

..and another trestle feature over 3rd to show were the walkway might come out of the David Building, since that would be less obvious. The idea is to do various design features to act as visual cues that there is something happening across the street or at the other end of a vista or scene, so you follow the walk via path of spatial or architectonic "events".

It's an interesting solution to the big blocks of downtown.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"Strategic Building Re-use Study"

The Downtown Dayton Partnership released it's downtown building re-use study last week. 10 designs for for various buildings and sites, mostly focused on east of Main Street.

The Partnership's website has the details, with full coverage of the graphics and narratives and pix of buildings. Link here and be inspired (or depressed, when one realizes the good design talent here that is going to waste)

Probably the least do-able (due to lack of program and money) is Rogero-Buckmans Transportation Center re-do. This is "Ballpark Village" as a mini-Times Square, building out the transportation center to fill out the intersection, and replacing Arbys with what used to be there...a mid rise loft building.

This is an excellent design. It creates an urban corner, and is the missing link or node connecting downtown with the Oregon District. And the design even incorporates a train station and streetcar loop to address the buzz about rail-based infrastructure.

And note that it closes St Clair Street, which makes the Patterson/5th intersection less of a vast expanse of pavement. Apparently this street closure is being seriously considered.

Another thing that is being seriously considered is a mid block walkway connecting with Riverscape. The connection would be with "Merchants Row" , AKA 3rd between St Clair and Jefferson. I'ts shown in this proposal:

An unusual aspect of this is that it proposes to cut through the "David Building" on the north side of Third (which used to be open as a market back in the 1920s/30s and as a bank drive through in the recent past).

Yer humble host was curious about this so took some snaps. Here we are in the big parking lot looking north, seeing how this walkway makes use of open space between buildings (and snags Carousel Beauty Colleges' parking lot).
Turning around and looking south at the David Building, one sees how this walkway would take out one of Dayton's more popular gay bars, blowing out the bar to pass under the building to Third. Isn't that special.

Apparently the city is enthusiastic about this plan too, and is seriously considering building this walkway. Which would also take out a part of this parking lot, which serves this and three other gay bars either facing it or backing up to it.

Urban renewal as homo removal? Or just a coincidence?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Latest Developments on Colonel Glenn

From 2007/2008/2009, Colonel Glenn continues to evolve as a suburban business center. One example is the recycling of real estate. In this case an old gas station in the "New Germany" reach of Colonel Glenn is replaced by a Sonic drive-in. This chain has just entered the Dayton market.

The old gas station originally at the interesection of Zink, New Germany-Trebein and Colonel Glenn, north (upper) side of Colonel Glenn, just off the cul-de-sac
And the new Sonic

The rest of the new development is happening on empty parcels, as there is still open land on the highway. Example is this hotel under contstruction in th vicinity of the Fairborn-Wright Office Park, directly across from WSU....

...and this little strip center on the Meijer property, between Meijer and WSU. The first Starbucks Coffee in this area is here.

And the new Texas Roadhouse chain restaurant, at the highly visible Colonel Glenn and North Fairfield intersection across from the Nutter Center. This is interesting as it is next to the University Shoppes strip center but I think is an example of intensification of use, as it doesnt appear to have been orginally intended as a pad, but was converted to one to take advantage of the optimal visibility here.
Back to the western end of Colonel Glenn, at the county line where it turns into Airway Road, is Mission Point, a very large planned development by Miller Valentine, who is returning to the area after a hiatus. Recall M-V was responsible for the very sucessfull Wright Executive Park.

For now, one lone building. This western end of Colonel Glenn is somewhat weak when it comes to development, with things being more intense east of National Road/Grange Hall Road. So this is maybe more speculative and risky than it appears. It is, however, quite convenient to Wright-Patterson. So a possible site for defense contractors.

It's fitting that one of most recent buildings to go up here is an office, since the first spec commercial development from the 1970s was also offices. We have come full circle.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Building Colonel Glenn IV: Meijer

Meijer is a USA version of the European "hypermarket" concept, which mixes big box retail and supermarket under one roof, sort of like merging a K-Mart with a Kroger. The firm started up in the Grand Rapids area and expanded into different markets in the Midwest.

In 1989-90 Meijer expanded into the Dayton market. One of its last stores here was on Colonel Glenn. Announced in 1990 and opened in 1991 or 92, it did pick up NIMBY static from the condos behind it (in Fairborn, the store is actually within Beavercreek city limits).

The site in 1989, outlined in yellow, across the street from the 1996-1999 AutoNation car lot and some "New Germany" fuzz. The diagonal of Zink Road to the west and WSU to the west:

The site today. The site planning is what's notable here. Meijer paid for some road realignments and connections, integrating it into the surrounding street system. And one can't really tell where WSU ends and Meijer property starts. Note that Meijer also sells gas; gas station to the left (west), along Colonel Glenn. Fairly good access control here, with entrances to Col Glenn being fairly limited.

The big box. Later Meijers (like the ones that opened in Chicago's western suburbs) have a more interesting facade treatment. In this case the left hand side is the supermarket and the right hand side is electronics and garden.

One of the more interesting features of the site planning is how the store integrates with WSU. The access drive to the store from the east also acts as a secondary access and back circulation for the very large WSU parking lot to the north. And a connection is made to Executive Boulevard (south of Colonel Glenn develoments) via a signalized interesection.

The Meijer retention basin is also the headwaters of the watercourse that eventually flows into WSU's "Valley of the Dorms"

WSU access road and WSU buildings in the distance, cleverly disguised as another suburban office park. Open space is either WSUs or being in held in speculation. One of the parcels here was very recently developed into a little strip center, visible in the aeriel above.

Meijer paid for the relignment of Zink Road as part of the zoning agreement with Beavercreek. Zink now works as parking access and access to the Meijer Gas station. One can also see the new apartment developments. Zink Road is probably one of the higher density areas in the Dayton region as it is nearly all apartments, condominiums, and dorms.

Old Zink Road has nearly disappeared, being replaced by an oversized cul-de-sac. This lone bungalow and neighboring frame ranch represent the some of last of old Zink Road and New Germany when it was an outlying settlement and perhaps early commuter suburb.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Quiet RTA Scandal

The Dayton Daily News inadvertently spilled the beans on how RTA was a cash cow for certain pet projects of the local power structure.

In an excellent bit of reporting on RTA's budget woes, the DDN reports on what happened to RTA's rainy day fund:

After years of deficit spending, RTA was forced to raise its fares twice in the last three years, for a total increase of 50 percent, Donaghy said. In 2007, the agency combined and eliminated routes and reduced overall service by 12 percent.

Prior to his arrival in 2006, Donaghy said the agency ran through an $80 million to $100 million surplus, primarily through investment in projects like the Schuster Center, Fifth Third Field and Wright Stop Plaza at Third and Main streets.

One would have to go back into the press archives to find out for sure, but I think RTA actually spent more than the city of Dayton in subsidizing the Schuster Center, a project (along with 5/3 Field) that had nothing to do with public transit. Wright Stop Plaza was a good idea, though.

The article continues on how Ohio barely spends any state money on public transit (yet another example on how this is the "Alabama of the Midwest"). Yet one has to wonder about what was going on with RTA when they wipe out their cash cushion for projects like the Schuster.

The director at the time was local career bureaucrat Minnie Fells Johnson, who was implicated in a fishy retire-and-then-get-rehired scheme back in the early 2000s (which soundes a lot like double dipping). One can speculate that her strings were being pulled by the local establishment, though.

Past mismangement helped make the current situation worse, but at base is the economic decline of Montgomery County; the article reports revenues from the sales tax used to fund RTA fell by 18%, indicating some hard times here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Recycling Col. Glenn: AutoNation to Home Depot

One of the differences between an economically active suburban area and place like Dayton city, which is drained of economic life, is that property gets recycled fairly quickly instead of sitting empty or torn down for vacant lots.

A good example is this fairly large tract between New Germany and the office parks off the eastern reaches of Colonel Glenn. It and its neighbor across the street would be developed into large scale retail establishments, Meijer and AutoNation. Meijer would survive, and AutoNation would not.

In 1989 the parcel had only the Fairborn water sphere, which is familiar landmark along I-675.

AutoNation USA was H Wayne Huizenga's attempt to do with used cars what he did with garabage hauling (Waste Management) and video rental (Blockbuster Video). Which is to take a mostly local, low-end type of service or business, and transform it into a consistently branded and marketed enterprise of national scope and high volume.

So these AutoNation USA mega used-car lots were built across the country. This was Dayton's.

The concept failed and the mega-lots were closed in 1999 (nationwide, not just here). The above 2000 aeriel shows the vacant lot, with some road improvements (cul-de-sacs for the two roads leading to the site).

Sometime in the 2000s the property was redeveloped into a little retail place. A Home Depot big box, a tire sales place, and a themed restaurant replaced AutoNation.
What's interesting is how the water spehere now sits alone next to the big bog. And the road system was rationalized so one can wind ones way through the Home Depot parking lot from New Germany road to the extended Executive Boulevard, as a parallel alternative route to Colonel Glenn.

The restaurant, "Quaker Steak", on a retro gas station theme, using Quaker State Oil branding.

And the quintessential suburban scene: big box and modernist water tower under a big blue sky. It's morning in America:

...the ever-evolving suburban landscape.

Building Colonel Glenn III: "New Germany" Offices

Fairborn-Wright and Wright Executive Park were not the only spec office developments on Colonel Glenn. To the west in the vicinity of "New Germany" was a collection of smaller developments:

1. Freedom Center

2. Signal Hill

3. Ashford Center

4. Glenn Tech Center


Setting the stage, in 1983 "New Germany" still reads as a seperate place as there was a lot of open land around it. It's doubtfull anyone called it that, though. Some of the first movers appear to the east, and the mysterious Wright-Patterson "tower building" was already built.

...and one can see what might be site preparation for two of the complexes.


Everything is up by now, a product of the 1980s boom. Except Signal Hill is missing one of its buildings, which was built in the early 1990s. Wright-Patterson "tower building" contributes to the office landscape, though it's in a secure area and not a spec building.

Now lets take a look at the buildings, moving from east to west.

Freedom Center

Ugh. A banal pancake building. Freedom...to park. This was set in what would have been the older part of New Germany so one wonders if some old buildings were torn down to build it. Sort of an example of recyling real estate.

Signal Hill

Brick and band windows, not unlike one of the buildings at Fairborn-Wright. The building to the left (at four stories instead of three) is the newer one from the 1990s. One of the buildings is signed for SAIC, presumably a defense contractor at the base.

Ashford Center

This also had a little one story restaurant/lounge in front, but that closed & is now a real estate office. Another brick and band window design. One wonders if more was planned for this site. For some reason this western part of Colonel Glenn seems undeveloped.

The building is signed for ARINC, another defense contractor.

Glenn Tech Center

Glenn Tech is a one story pancake building with considerably more flair than "Freedom Center", using large window walls and glazed/colored brick or tile on the facade. Now home to ITT I think defense contractor Sverdrup was in here during the 1990s.

What's interesting is that the defense contractors on Colonel Glenn aren't too hush-hush as they have big signs on their buildings. The military/industrial complex seems to drive occupancy in the spec offices off Colonel Glenn to some extent (it's not all defense oriented, though), but that is changing with the 2000's development of "Mills-Morgan Land" south of I-675.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Much is the Arcade Really Worth?

Taking a brief break from suburban studies since the dear old Arcade is so much in the news.

There is some interesting discussion about what local government can do to smooth the way toward restoration. One of the suggestions floated by Dayton Most Metro was a tax abatment, which also got some attention at the Dayton Daily News opinion blog (along with the usual dunderheaded comments).

Which does raise some interesting questions about what was going on with the pricing of the Arcade.

Here is the most recent property valuation from the auditors website (including some additional charges for things like the conservancy district):

At a value of $2.3M one can see why Tony Staub was asking for, I think, $3M. Staub appeared to be asking for the assessed value of the property, land + improvments ("improvements" being the Arcade complex buildings), plus a bit more. It's doubtfull the buildings where worth that much even as scrap or salvage. And the land was worthless with the buildings on it. Deduct the demolition cost and then the land might be worth something. One suspects that even the demolition cost would have been more than the land was allegedly worth.

Looking at the "value history", the Arcade property was actually increasing in value during the years Staub (dba Brownfield Charities) owned it. Given that maintenance was being deferred and the buildings deteriorating this makes no sense.

As we know from press reports the new owners made a $700K bid on the property via E-Bay. This was actually a bit less than the improvements value.

And the property sold for $615,106, without competetive bidding. This is the "market signal" for the value of the Arcade in it's current state.

So one has to ask was the property valuation ever realistic? And should the owner be paying taxes on $2.3M, when the property sold for only $615K?

I don't think so. I think the property needs to be down-valued to the sales price until restoration is complete and the property leased. Then maybe the property will be worth $2M.

The value history does raise the larger question as to the real worth of old downtown property. This is real estate that can't be rented, won't sell and who's buildings cost too much to tear down. Are downtown property values being held unrealistically high?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wright Executive Park: 1990s Additions

After the initial build-out these buildings came on-line in the early 1990s.

The lone office building amid the hotels, and the last office building in Wright Executive Park. Perhaps intended to be a hotel site, a four story office building went up instead, a somewhat more detailed version of the earlier spec offices. According to the building sign defense contractor Curtiss-Wright has offices here.

Hotels came last at Wright Executive Park. Some of these appear to be under construction in 1989, so probably opened in 1990 (Homewood Suites probably in 1990) or later. Two hotels and one extended stay complex (Homewood Suites)
Instead of additional food/drink places facing Colonel Glenn a small strip center (University Shoppes II) and a bank went in near an access road intersection with Colonel Glenn.

In some ways the retail here is a suburban version of those shopping districts near college campuses. Two fast food places (one asian), a Kaplan test taking operation, and the "College Store" books and school supply store are in this center. So not the typical suburban retail.

And that's about it for Wright Executive Plaza, one of the Dayton Regions better planned and and sucessfull mixed use developments, and one of the first movers in the WSU/Fairfield Commons edge city.

Wright Executive Park in Detail

The building block of the office part of Wright Exectutive park was this three story spec office building. There be minor individual variations they are all essentially the same. The design accentuates the verticle, but there is variation on the facade to articulate the corners and the entrance.

What is interesting is that the site planning was relatively sophisticated for a Dayton spec office development. There is generous use of landscaping to define and soften the exterior environment and the entrance from the parking lots is developed more than usual.

From the parking lot side the repetition of the standard design gives the complex visual unity. The treets would help soften the exterior environment when full.

An example of how the parking lots are seperated and defined by rows of trees flanking the access roads, turning each lot into an outdoor room.

It's not evident that much from the ground, but each building fronting I-675 steps back, adding a bit of visual interest. The little plaza to the left is in front of the Wright Executive Center "monument".
From I-675 the streamlined horizontality of the offices is fairly dramatic, somewhat a visual analogy to or correspondence with high speed travel on the interstate. These buildings read especially well when floodlit at night.

University Shoppes, a 1980s strip center with the FedExKinkos on the corner. Sure sign of a business environment. Most of the center is food and drink places, probably catering to both the office workers and college students.

Executive Boulevard (?) which parallels Colonel Glenn. The fast food places have low signs and the visual environment is uncluttered but very horizontal. Interestingly enough they did provide sidewalks.

And the Holiday Inn, from the 1980s. At 6 stories this was the tallest building in the area until Mills-Morgan built their little high rise across the freeway. This Holiday Inn has meeting facilities and a restaurant.

Analysing Wright Executive Park

Color coding the map using the code in the previous post; some of the planning intentions become more evident.

The site was apparently zoned two ways; Offices to the west and retail/hospitality to the east. and retail /food to the front, hotels to the rear.

The office environment was kept uniform and the site was developed as a grid of plantings and access roads seperating the parkng "outdoor rooms". There was aggressive access control for Colonel Glenn, with Executive Boulevard operating as the secondary parallel access road to the fast food, retail, and office uses.

Access to Colonel Glenn was coordinated with WSU access so the road systems of the campus and the two developements south of the highway are integrated. This is really good planning.

An anomalous feature, though, is the lone office building in the hotel area. One suspects that since the initial spec office development was so sucessfull a site that might have been planned for hotels was built out as offices instead.

And a little parti diagram of some of the land use concepts. There would have been access control along Colonel Glenn, but I think the reason the greenbelt along the highway is relatively wide to the south is that there is a power line right of way here, so it had to be wide to accomodate the transmission line.

Building Colonel Glenn II: Wright Executive Park

Wright Executive Park was the second large development on Colonel Glenn. Directly to the east of the Fairborn-Wright Office Park this was a product of the 1980s boom and perhaps a beneficiary of changed Department of Defense policies requiring contractors to be be located close to the military units they contracted with. However, this development was underway years prior to the policy change, thus was quite speculative for its time. A speculation that paid off.

Developed by Miller-Valentine starting in the early 1980s, after the final approval of and start of construction on I-675, the property extended as far as Fairfield Road, directly across from the Wright State campus.

By the late 1980s the first office buildings were up, as well as some retail (Unversity Shoppes strip center and fast food places) and the large Holiday Inn, with its tower and small conference center.

By 1989 another building was added and site prep work was underway for additional hotels. Whats notable is that the site planning deliberatly connected up with Fairborn Wright, so these two seperate developments work as an integrated whole. It isn't obvious that they are seperate developments that occured during seperate decades.

During the early 1990s the hotels were added (as well as one in the leftover triangle of land east of Fairfield Road. University Shoppes II and a bank joined the retail component. The last office building was added at the rear of the development near the hotels. The 1990s also saw the expansion of the credit union and additional fast food places in the Fairborn-Wright office park.

The complex was substantially built out by 2000, with the only add being a restaurant on an outlot next to the University Shoppes.

One hotel was added to Fairborn-Wright, and another is currrently under construction.

Wright Executive Park was perhaps one of Miller Valentines greatest development sucesses, sucessfully competing with Miami Valley Research Park for tenants. Wright Executive park was 90% leased by the early 1990s, four years ahead of projections.

Next, a closer look.