YS Development Corporation— Township fire station up for sale
- Published: July 29, 2020
When Miami Township Fire-Rescue moves into its new Xenia Avenue fire station in the fall, the department will vacate an aging commercial facility in a prime downtown location.
The former fire station at 225 Corry St. is now on the market at a list price of $400,000. Who will purchase it, and what will it be used for? Will it be retail? Offices? A restaurant? A performance space?
The decision of whom to sell the building to is now in the hands of the Yellow Springs Development Corporation, or YSDC, a relatively new quasi-governmental group that includes representation from the Village of Yellow Springs, Miami Township, Yellow Springs Schools and others.
Earlier this month, at its July 2 virtual meeting, YSDC representatives purchased an option on the fire station from the Miami Township Trustees, with the intention to resell it to another entity for a purpose that will benefit the community.
Although they could have sold the building outright, the Trustees agreed last month to YSDC’s option so that there could be more flexibility in whom the building was sold to, according to trustee Don Hollister, who is also a board member of the YSDC.
“The development corporation is an organization that can take a broader view over who is a good buyer,” Hollister said. “They can ask, ‘What does the community need?’”
By law, governmental entities are required to sell real estate to the highest bidder, while working through a development corporation would allow the township to incorporate a broader set of aims in the building’s sale.
YSDC member and township representative Corrie Van Ausdal is heading the YSDC subcommittee working to find a buyer who would help fulfill the community’s needs. She said the group is looking for a project that improves both the “economic health and cultural vibrancy” of Yellow Springs, a phrase from the group’s draft mission statement.
The benefit of the YSDC selling the property, Van Ausdal explained, is “to not just be so focused on dollars and cents but rather be able to work with somebody to make the best plan for town.”
The YSDC, which purchased the option for the nominal price of $1, will also reap 8% of the purchase price, according to the agreement, hashed out over several months with the trustees. Miami Township will earn, at a minimum, $320,000 from the sale, according to Hollister, in addition to playing a seminal role in “a broader civic collaboration.” Hollister said the township hopes to use the sale proceeds for general operations, but it might also be used to pay for expenses at the new fire station if they go over budget.
The YSDC’s option on the property expires on Sept. 1, and any potential tenant can move into the facility as soon as the fire department vacates it or as late as Nov. 30, according to the agreement. Hollister clarified that the township hopes to move into the new fire station soon after Labor Day.
Ultimately, YSDC’s 11-member board will have the final vote on who purchases the building after reviewing proposals. The discussions with and about potential buyers will take place in closed-door executive sessions.
Voting members of the YSDC are its president, Lisa Abel, who is also president of the Yellow Springs Community Foundation; Village Council members Lisa Kreeger and Marianne MacQueen; Hollister and Van Ausdal, both representing the Township; Chamber Director Karen Wintrow; Antioch College President Tom Manley and Vice President of Operations and Business Hannah Spirrison Montgomery; school board members Steve McQueen and Steve Conn; and Patrick Lake, the citizen representative.
Voting in favor of the draft contract to purchase the fire station at the YSDC’s June 6 virtual meeting were MacQueen, Conn, Kreeger, McQueen, Montgomery and Abel. Abstaining from the vote were Hollister, Van Ausdal, Lake and Wintrow. No reasons were given for their abstentions. Manley was absent.
So far, the YSDC has been marketing the property within the Yellow Springs community but may begin to advertise it more broadly through a realtor, according to Van Ausdal. She said the group has received “multiple letters of interest” from potential buyers but declined to give a specific number.
Asked for more detail about what the subcommittee may be looking for, Van Ausdal said they would likely not sell to a fast food chain, but would prioritize a use “complementary to downtown.” She said she is personally looking for a buyer who would improve the property and has the resources to implement their plan, and would prefer a plan that gives the public access to the facility rather than a manufacturing or office site.
Van Ausdal added that this is the first time the group has taken on a property to sell since it was formed at the beginning of the year and the sale will serve as a “pilot” for future property transfers.
Other fire station subcommittee members are Village Manager Josué Salmerón and Jeannamarie Cox, director of the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. Both are invited participants, but not voting members, of the YSDC.
Originally built in 1956, with additions in the ’60s and ’70s, the old fire station is 6,027 square feet; roughly two thirds of the space is a two-story garage/shop area and one-third of it is office space, according to a spec document provided by Hollister. The property includes 12 parking spaces and is adjacent to the Little Miami Scenic Bike Trail.
The commercial property is in the Central Business District, the B-1 zoning district, which, according to the Village zoning code, “serves as the focal point for the social and commercial activities of the Village” and permits “the integration of business, institutional, public, quasi-public, cultural, residential and other related uses.” Uses, meanwhile, “are intended to promote pedestrian movement and social interaction and should be of a scale and character that is consistent with the small town ambiance of the Village,” the code states.
A wide variety of uses are permitted in the B-1 district, including museums, community centers, restaurants, banks, studios, day care centers, fitness clubs, barber shops, shoe repair shops, government offices, general retail, residential and more, according to the zoning code.
Due to limited parking availability at the site, it is likely that the proposed use of the facility will come before the Yellow Springs Planning Commission for a variance, Salmerón noted at the YSDC meeting.
Also present at the YSDC meeting were invited participants Eric Henry of the Greene County Department of Development; Yellow Springs Schools Superintendent Terri Holden and Treasurer Tammy Emrick; Yellow Springs Community Foundation Board Member Joshua Mabra and Outreach Manager Melissa Heston, and Village Council President Brian Housh.
In other YSDC business at its July 2 meeting:
Educational commons grant approved
The YSDC’s grant request to explore an “educational commons” was approved by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation. The purpose of the collaborative grant is to see if a Yellow Springs K–12 facility could be sited on the Antioch College campus, with the possible involvement of other local educational entities such as the Yellow Springs Community Children’s Center and the Agraria Center for Regenerative Agriculture.
However, instead of the full $50,000 requested, the community foundation approved an initial $15,000 to see if a viable site exists before more money is committed, according to Lake, who brought the idea to the YSDC and is now heading the project for the group.
“They don’t want to allocate $50,000 if we determine there is no site on campus we could build a school,” Lake explained. YSCF is also committing staff time to the project, Abel added.
Lake added that he believes the most likely site for a new K–12 building is on the campus’ south end, a 36-acre area known as the golf course. Other college assets could be then renovated as part of an “education district,” including the Foundry Theatre, science building, the arts annex and Kelly Hall in Antioch’s main building, Lake suggested.
In addition to site selection, the project’s first phase would include environmental assessments, community feedback and the creation of a new, legally binding LLC that Lake said would eventually “capture community assets.” The first phase would run through September, Lake added.
Superintendent Holden re-affirmed the district’s commitment to upgrading its facilities, stating her belief that the most cost-effective approach for the district is a single, K–12 facility, wherever it is located. She added that the district has several pieces of real estate and is not committed to the Antioch campus.
“My driver is, What is going to meet our needs?” Holden said. “Right now, there’s nothing that for me right now says [the Antioch campus] is the best place.”
Montgomery, of Antioch College, called the idea a “really exciting possibility from the college’s perspective.” She added that some areas of campus may not be needed for its Antioch College Works initiative, in which all students eligible for a Pell grant receive a full-tuition scholarship and perform on- and off-campus work during their studies.
“It’s a really exciting way to take some of the resources we may not need to fulfill that vision and that we use those to build that collaborative partnership,” she said.
At the meeting, the YSDC also created a subcommittee to work on the project. That group includes Lake, foundation Director Cox, Superintendent Holden, Antioch President Manley (or a designee) and Council member Kreeger. Abel abstained from the vote to create the subcommittee, stating that she did so because she is the community foundation’s president.
MacQueen encouraged the subcommittee to “bring the community along” early in the process, even as it explores whether any sites have potential.
“I would be very concerned about getting very far down the road … without at least educating the community, if not getting community input,” she said.
YSDC’s next meeting is Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 4:30 p.m., on the videoconferencing app Zoom.