Plan unveiled to revitalize Middletown’s Oakland neighborhood

Improving Middletown’s housing to attract new residents and expand the tax base is a top concern of officials here as different strategies are continuing to be explored in developing the city’s new housing plan.

Middletown City Council recently heard a presentation about revitalizing the Oakland neighborhood as a special improvement district by creating an Urban Renaissance Incentive District. City Manager Doug Adkins said the housing committee has had discussions on how to revitalize an entire neighborhood.

Developers Dan Mayzum and Dan Barton said this strategy could transform a low tax-value historic district with the potential for rehabilitation and substantial improvement, and new development infill opportunities in the Oakland area, around the former Carnegie library and the former middle school site.

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Mayzum and Barton have 20 years of experience in several historic district development areas in Dayton and in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine district. Barton, who lives in the Grafton Hills historic district neighborhood in Dayton, said after this strategy was implemented, property values increased 282 percent in the first six years and have continue to increase in later reappraisals.

“This is the same model being used in Over-the-Rhine,” said Mayzum, a preservationist architect from Glendale.

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

The Oakland area 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.

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Barton said there are a series of things that contribute to a neighborhood’s deterioration. He said people have to have confidence to invest or pack up and leave. He also said people want to live in a safe and stable neighborhood.

“You need reinvestment to occur in a neighborhood. If not, it will deteriorate and hit bottom,” he said.

They said the proposed incentive district would remove blight, spur residential and commercial development and increase property values and create new jobs through increasing demand in historic districts. It would also return previously tax-exempt land used by the former middle school back to the tax rolls through new housing and other development.

Barton said the estimated valuation of the Oakland neighborhood is nearly $19.6 million. He said the neighborhood would see property valuations increase 100 percent to 150 percent following the removal of blight.

In a 20-year projection, Barton said with the new development the neighborhood could see a new valuation of $78.6 million that could see about $10 million being generated for future development and an additional $1.2 million in additional city tax revenues.

Adkins said there is no time-frame set yet to begin the project. He said it may go forward as the logistics and neighborhood are comfortable that the process is ready to move forward.

Adkins said the city and Middletown City School District are in discussions about the future of the former middle school site.

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