Five Questions with John Gower on the Emergence of Urban Living

 Five Questions with John Gower on the Emergence of Urban Living

Ginny McCabe Dayton Magazine caught up with John Gower, urban designer and place-maker engineer for the city of Dayton and CityWide Development Corp. He talked about the recent revitalization happening downtown and the emergence of urban living in Dayton. He also touched on the recent sale of the Mendelson’s building and how its development fits into the Webster Station planning area.

Crawford Hoying recently announced the purchase of the Mendelson building located at 340 E. First St. Tell us about that.

Crawford Hoying reached an agreement with Sandy Mendelson to purchase the larger of the remaining Delco buildings. It’s more than a half of a million square feet. It’s really laid out very interestingly in that it is shaped like a rectangular doughnut, which allows it to be easily adaptable to all different kinds of uses, including housing, hotel, office and other uses like that.

As far as the Mendelson building is it too early to talk about the plans? I know it will be a multiuse development. Have any formal plans been announced yet?

At this point I can speculate and assume it will be mixed use and housing will be a big part of that. Beyond that I’m not really sure. Crawford Hoying is a very experienced urban developer. They completely understand this value proposition in economic linkage between housing, lifestyle uses and value and I know that’s what they will do there, but I can’t tell you, specifically, because they have not revealed the plan and the detail of exactly what that will be.

The size of the Mendelson building is significant in regard to what can be done downtown. How can it contribute to the overall area within Webster Station?

Yes, it is a large building. It’s not the largest building that’s ever been done in an urban area similar to Dayton. It’s not an impossibly large building to do because of the condition. Sandy Mendelson has kept that building in pretty good condition in the years that the Mendelson family has owned and operated it. It has unique architectural character and characteristics of being able to have a light well and the big windows being now in an area where there’s been so much that has happened around it that it’s not by itself.

What are your overall thoughts on Webster Station as far as where it is now and some next steps or specific things that you expect to happen in the near future?

I think we are going to see more of what’s been happening. I think we are going to see more housing. I think we are going to see more growth in the creative industries and creative businesses who are wanting to be in a different kind of environment. I think we are going to see more local food options and that’s all really good.

How far out into the future do you see this going?

I’m going to be really optimistic here and say there isn’t any reason that this cycle can’t go on for another 15 years. And if you look at what’s going on in the rest of the country in the urban areas this is less of a trend and it’s more like a market shift. And you really have to start looking at the bigger cities where this has been going on for the last 30 years and I’m going to pick Chicago, because what’s happened in Chicago and continues to happen in Chicago it is not something that folks are going to say has a lifespan to it. This is really dependent on how you are growing your employment base, what a cool place it is, why people want to be there and in some ways it’s based on the economics of it. I saw something on television last night where they said by 2050 two-thirds of the world’s population is going to be living in cities and they were asking the bigger question of “OK, are we ready for this?” I don’t think this is a trend that’s going to come and go. I think this has been a very slow, steady market shift.