Dayton Fire Blocks District could get new developer

The Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Combined ShapeCaption
The Fire Blocks District in downtown Dayton. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A project to transform the Fire Blocks is being restructured, and a new developer has come to the table who hopes to take it on, said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

The new developer has not been publicly identified, but Gudorf said the developer says the “capacity and the vision” to get the project done.

“We’re making progress on the project, but it will be several weeks (or longer) before its finalized,” Gudorf said.

RELATED: Dayton’s Fire Blocks faces deadline, could lose $4.5M in funds

Work to redevelop the Fire Blocks District, centered around the 100 block of East Third Street, had not made significant progress even though the Ellway Group acquired multiple commercial properties in the area a year ago or longer and announced that construction was imminent.

The Ellway Group’s plan to transform the Elks Building and the Huffman Block building on the 100 block of East Third Street was awarded about $4.5 million in state historic tax credits in June 2016.

But earlier this year, the state of Ohio told the group that it had until June 30 to prove it had financing for the rehab work or forfeit the tax credits. The state said the project had not demonstrated “sufficient evidence” of progress.

RELATED: Fire Blocks plan to reshape downtown Dayton faces growing pains

The state deadline is fast approaching.

Gudorf said the development team is looking at all of the issues related to the redevelopment plan and the tax credits are part of that.

Recently, the city of Dayton recently issued a few commercial building permits for interior demolition for properties in the Fire Blocks District.

The district covers multiple blocks but centers around the 100 block of East Third Street. Winfield Scott Gibson, CEO of the Ellway Group, and companies his group control own about nine buildings in and around downtown Dayton.

Gibson could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Fire Blocks developers proposed to overhaul multiple underutilized and vacant commercial buildings to create new housing, swanky restaurants, offices and other amenities. But the projects never got rolling.

The redevelopment efforts hit some stumbling blocks.

A former contractor obtained mechanics liens against the Ellway Group’s properties, alleging nonpayment for work provided. But Gibson sued the contractor, claiming the complaint was based on fraudulent information.

A creative consulting group that worked with Gibson and the Ellway Group also parted ways.

Past plans shared by the Ellway Group were ambitious, calling for more than $100 million in investments in the district. Wells & Co. Custom Tattoo opened in a ground-floor space of a commercial building in early 2017. The Funk Music Hall of Fame and Exhibition Center opened for business in December.

But other plans, like for a new taco and tequila bar at the corner of East Third and Jefferson streets, never materialized.

About the Author