Multi-million dollar development proposed for Wright Dunbar area

A rendering of San Marco Dayton LLC’s plans for a former car dealership building in the Wright Dunbar area on West Third Street. CONTRIBUTED.
A rendering of San Marco Dayton LLC’s plans for a former car dealership building in the Wright Dunbar area on West Third Street. CONTRIBUTED.

A multi-million dollar proposal to create a mix of new retail and market-rate housing is exactly the kind of project that people think can help take the Wright Dunbar area to the next level and make some parts of the west side a hotbed of new activity.

San Marco Dayton LLC, a group of primarily local investors who are minority community members, plans to revitalize the vacant West Side Chevy building at 800 W. Third St. into a mixed-use development that is stylish and contemporary.

“We want to create an entrance into the Wright Dunbar area and the west side of the city,” said John Lumpkin, a representative of the group. “It’ll be a nice gateway into the district.”

The investment would add to a growing number of redevelopment projects planned for the Wright Dunbar business district and nearby areas that people believe will attract more foot traffic, as well as new residents and businesses.

“The development of West Side Chevy, the Allaman Building and the W. Social will make Wright Dunbar a destination,” said Erica Hubler, Wright Dunbar Inc.’s director of real estate. “The Historic Wright Dunbar Business District is on course to being the vibrant historic district it was always meant to be.”

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San Marco Dayton LLC wants to transform the 50,000-square-foot former auto dealership building into retail space on the ground floor and market-rate apartments on the upper levels, said Lumpkin, who described the group as mostly local investors.

Today, the building is two stories. But the development group plans to add three additional levels to allow for more new housing.

The building might have 60 to 65 apartments, but that could change, Lumpkin said, adding that the group has completed a capacity study and just received a market study back last week, which is still under review.

A rendering of the project shows what the two-story brick building would look like with three new levels.

The rendering shows rooftop spaces and balconies with modern designs above the existing structure, which maintains its original and historic facade.

San Marco Dayton, which also owns a vacant lot to the east of the auto dealership, was attracted to the property because of its location along a major thoroughfare that is close to downtown and the river, and it sits in the Wright Dunbar business district, which continues to gain momentum, Lumpkin said.

“As a west side guy, no one ever does development on the west side, and we’ve been trying to do things here for the better part of a decade,” he said. “We’ve been trying to find an opportunity to bring something to our side of town.”

The market-rate apartments likely will be a mix of one- and two-bedroom units, which the west side desperately needs, Lumpkin said.

The West Dayton mostly has affordable and subsidized housing, and there is a severe shortage of market-rate product, he said.

San Marco Dayton has three letters of intent from local restaurateurs, which would complement a proposed food hall down the street at 1100 W. Third St., Lumpkin said. A rendering of the food hall suggests the name will be W. Social Tap & Table.

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San Marco Dayton plans to create some indoor parking and some rooftop uses, which might include spaces for a business or residents, Lumpkin said.

The construction timeline likely will be 18 to 24 months, and the hope is to finish the project around the same time the Third Street Street bridge reopens, Lumpkin said.

The Third Street bridge, which is the most direct way to get to the Wright Dunbar business district from downtown, closed in early January and officials expect it will take two years to replace.

Lumpkin said this project is personally meaningful to him because he has deep family ties to West Dayton, and he still lives on the city’s west side.

“We don’t have minority developers,” he said. “Here’s an opportunity for that, and we thought, why not develop our own community, instead of waiting for somebody else to come in and do it for us.”

Minority community members do not get a lot of development opportunities because they face significant hurdles, and this group is mindful of that and is working hard and thoughtfully to get this project right because “there’s always someone looking for an excuse to not give us opportunities,” he said.

The West Side Chevy project would create instant density in the Wright Dunbar area, which matters because businesses want to move to places with density and residents want to live near businesses and amenities, said Jeff Jackson, president of the Wright Dunbar Village Neighborhood Association.

“There is confidence in the Wright Dunbar area that residents will come and businesses will come,” Jackson said.

Wright Dunbar Inc., residents, the neighborhood and other stakeholders have worked for years to lay the groundwork that is finally culminating in recent announcements of new development, he said.

Wright Dunbar’s revitalization hopefully can and will spread to other close by neighborhoods, like Wolf Creek, which has a lot of potential and plenty of room for new projects, Jackson said.

ExploreCharles Simms Development, downtown’s most prolific new home builder, repeatedly has expressed interest in constructing new homes in the Wright Dunbar area.

A company called Urbannovation Development Group LLC has purchased a three-story building at 1000 W. Third St. that it wants to convert into market-rate condos and new retail or commercial space.

MORE: Third Street bridge closed for next two years