Dayton seeks developer for old, stone Claridge Center next to McCook Field park

The city of Dayton is looking for someone to buy and redevelop a former recreation center in the McCook Field neighborhood that the city has wanted to sell for a long time.

The Claridge Center building at 1404 Webster St., two blocks south of Leo Street, has been on and off the market since the city declared it surplus property in 2011.

For years, the property attracted little interest, but there’s been a surge of interest more recently, and the local commercial market has been red hot, said Keith Klein, senior economic development specialist with the city.

“We are looking for someone that has a creative vision for the building, and the willingness to work through the development process with the community,” he said.

Some community members say they want the building to be re-used in a way that is compatible with the neighborhood. Some neighbors opposed a recent proposal to turn the center into a mental health counseling facility for children.

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Klein said the Claridge building was constructed in the early 1900s.

He said old Sanborn maps suggest it was built to be a private clubhouse. The city acquired the building and surrounding land about a century ago. Land adjacent to the center became Claridge Park, which today is home to playground equipment, green space and a skatepark.

Claridge Center is at the southwest corner of Claridge Park, at Leonhard Street.

Klein said he believes the center was used for recreation programs at some point. The facility later became a health center.

Klein said a food pantry currently operates out of the property, but the city will help it relocate if and when the building is sold. City staff says the food pantry uses the building about once a week.

The park is still in use and features a small playground that the city plans to update, along with some other amenities, Klein said. Some of the amenities are old and somewhat rundown.

The park is home to a DIY skatepark that was built on underutilized tennis courts.

The city has issued a request for proposals for the roughly 3,000-square-foot facility. The city plans to sell the center in its current condition (”as is”), and the facility needs significant renovations.

Klein said any redevelopment proposal will require significant community engagement since there’s a lot of neighborhood interest in this property. He said the city wants to find the “highest and best use” for the center.

The property currently is zoned open space, so any commercial use will require a zoning change or variance.

Klein said future potential uses for the property could include offices. Or maybe, he said, it might be a good place to put a health center or cultural center.

Earlier this year, a potential buyer for the property tried to get it rezoned in the hopes of turning the building into a medical center that offers behavioral and mental health counseling for children.

However, multiple community members and members of the Northeast Land Use Board opposed the request. They said that use would be a bad fit for the property and the area.

Jerry Bowling III, president of the McCook Field Neighborhood Association, told this newspaper he wants to see the facility become something that complements the park and the neighborhood.

Bowling said the area has other parks, but this is the true neighborhood park that’s in walking distance of lots of people. The skatepark has been a popular attraction, and Bowling said it might expand by constructing a new bowl.

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