Consultants ready to move on to next phase of this Middletown neighborhood project

Two development consultants continue their push to transform a part of Middletown that will impact hundreds of homes and businesses in hopes to spur development and investment.

The proposal to rehabilitate the Oakland neighborhood continues as the first of five phases has been completed with the demolition of the former Middletown Middle School.

Developers Dan Barton and Dan Mayzum, of Oakland Renaissance Incentive District, held a work-session to update Middletown City Council on the project to create an Urban Renaissance Incentive District to revitalize the entire neighborhood designed to attract new residents, and expand the tax base.

Moving forward with the project will allow investors to transform a low tax-value historic district with the potential for rehabilitation and substantial improvement. The project will also provide new infill housing development opportunities in the Oakland neighborhood around the former Carnegie Library and former middle school site.

The neighborhood revitalization projects would be similar to the historic district development areas, such as Grafton Hills, South Park, Wright-Dunbar areas in Dayton, and the Over-the-Rhine district in Cincinnati.

“We want to incentivize people to improve their houses,” Barton said. “Property taxes go up with rising values.”

He said they want to do a re-purposing of the housing, stripping the structures to the studs that were built between the 1890s and 1920.

“We want to encourage classic renovation and add new elements to the housing,” he said. “The deteriorated (housing) stock can become an asset.”

Last year, Mayzum purchased the former 105-year-old Carnegie Library at 1320 First Ave. with plans to transform it into a cooperative brewing company, restaurant, reception hall and business incubator.

The Oakland neighborhood, which has more than 1,000 structures, is bordered by First Avenue to the west of the Middletown Pioneer Cemetery; south from the cemetery on Richmond Street to Parkview Drive; continues north to Young Street, then west on Penfield Avenue around the former AK Steel headquarters property to Curtis Avenue then north to Verity Parkway back to First Avenue.

MORE: Can a dilapidated former library become a brewery and more in Middletown? This architect says yes.

Some of the proposed new housing could include new three-bedroom loft homes, as well as three-to-four bedroom townhouses, condominiums and row-houses ranging from 1,500 to 2,400 square feet on the former middle school site, Mayzum said. They said they are being contacted by possible investors and developers as well as Oakland residents.

City Manager Doug Adkins said former middle school site has been cleared and nearly graded. He said the Middletown City School District has to wait for the final sign-off on the new middle school construction before they can move on disposing of the property. Adkins said that will probably happen between August and December.

City officials said the Oakland project would encompass more than 300 homes, corner retail stores, commercial businesses and several vacant lots. It will also include the renovation of Oakland Park at Baltimore Street and Fairmount Avenue. Also, there will be a focus to redevelop Oakland’s cultural assets such as revitalize the historic housing, commercial pockets, and Carnegie Library, and create a Historic District to spur investment.

In a staff report, city Economic Development Director Jennifer Ekey said the proposed redevelopment incentive district is projected to increase existing home valuations by more than 275 percent and pump a potential $10 million into the neighborhoods and generating a potential city tax revenue of $1.2 million. She said this initiative opens doors to pursue federal and state grants and Historic Tax Credits for restoring existing structures, addressing blight and streetscaping.

City Council was asked if it wished to go to Phase 2, the estimated costs would be about $108,000 that would be used for low-interest buy-down loans for new owner-occupied housing, housing construction and streetscape plans, neighborhood outreach, securing the former middle school site, and designs for two gateways into the neighborhood.

“We need a blessing from council to go to Phase 2,” Mayzum said.

Council will consider the funding request to continue the project at its June 4 meeting.

About the Author