Dave Chappelle to demo, rebuild downtown Yellow Springs structure
- Published: December 14, 2022
The architectural landscape of downtown Yellow Springs will soon be a bit more modern.
On Monday, Dec. 12, Yellow Springs Planning Commission members unanimously approved a plan for the demolition of the commercial and residential building at 221 Xenia Ave. — which formerly housed the independently owned retailer Earth Rose International Imports — and the construction of a new, more modern-looking structure there.
Property owner Iron Table Holdings, LLC, a development company owned by local resident and comedian Dave Chappelle, brought the proposal to Planning Commission.
Similar to the existing structure, the new two-story building will have a residential dwelling unit upstairs with commercial space on the ground floor. The new structure, however, will be constructed with a layout to accommodate two retailers — one facing Xenia Avenue, and the other facing Kieth’s Alley behind the building.
The decision to demolish and build new, rather than restore the existing building, was made because of how significantly derelict the structure had become in recent years, Iron Table Holdings architect Max Crome explained at the commission’s meeting.
“I have a long history of saving old buildings,” Crome said. “I took a careful look at this building to see if it could be salvaged, but this is the very first building in my 30 years of architecture where I thought a property was beyond repair.”
Citing an undermined foundation, extensive termite and water damage, rotting joists and profuse asbestos, Crome said the structure — which he believes is nearly 100 years old — must be demolished if any new retailer were to succeed Earth Rose.
The building at 221 Xenia Ave. has been vacant since Earth Rose’s proprietor Ed Oxley died in February 2021. Oxley ran his business for over 50 years. According to county records, Iron Table Holdings purchased the property for $400,000 in July 2021.
The architectural design of the proposed new structure differs significantly from its current rustic look. Encased by thick concrete exterior walls, the Xenia Avenue-facing storefront would bevel inwards to large glass panes at the business entrance. A canopy protruding toward the sidewalk would visually separate the retail space from the two-bedroom apartment above.
Crome called this aesthetic “mid-century modern.”
“I do think modern architecture can be challenging to people — especially those who perceive our downtown as being only composed of old and funky buildings,” he said.
Referencing the modern design of several downtown structures such as the Yellow Springs Community Library, Yellow Springer Tees, YS Federal Credit Union, Unfinished Creations and several other businesses, Crome said a significant portion of the downtown business district already abides by mid-century modernism.
“The canopy for 221 Xenia is a direct homage to Unfinished Creations,” Crome said. “This is my way of arguing that although the architecture is not designed in a traditional manner, like, say, Dino’s is, it is consistent with other buildings in the immediate vicinity.”
He added: “One of the beautiful things about Yellow Springs is the celebration of diversity in all kinds of things. I would propose there’s a lot of room for interpretation within the idea of having something be consistent with its surroundings.”
Also present at Monday’s meeting was Corey Grim, a construction project manager for Iron Table Holdings, who said the entire project — including both the demolition and construction — will likely take no more than two years.
“The asbestos abatement is expected to take a couple of months,” she said. “After that, the building can be demolished, and a lot of that work will have to be done by hand. Then, construction will tentatively take 12 to 14 months. Our intention is to get this done as fast as humanly possible.”
Iron Table Holdings’ task of demolishing the structure and building a new one would occur alongside the development of several other village properties held by the company.
Presently, Iron Table Holdings is overseeing the renovation of the Union Schoolhouse for office and recording spaces for 91.3 FM WYSO, the renovation of the historic property at 403 Xenia Ave. to accommodate residential dwelling units, as well as the ongoing creation of a comedy club at the former Miami Township Fire-Rescue fire station on Corry Street.
While construction is apparent at the schoolhouse and 403 Xenia Ave. sites, little has been done to the firehouse since Iron Table Holdings purchased the property in 2020. When asked of the status of the proposed comedy club, Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger said, “[Iron Table Holdings] is moving forward. They are getting their building plans together now.” Crome did not comment on the status of that project.
In addition to those properties and 221 Xenia Ave., Iron Table Holdings also owns a commercial property at 1425 Brookside Drive; The Chappelle Shop at 309 Xenia Ave., previously home to Oten Gallery and Aleta Café; and the mixed-use downtown building at 239 Xenia Ave.
County records also show that Chappelle’s longtime production company, Pilot Boy Productions, owns two properties at 120 Railroad St. and 1540 Xenia Ave. Sharing the same post office box number as Chappelle’s Iron Table Holdings and Pilot Boy Productions is Spillan Road LLC, which, earlier this year, purchased the land that had been previously intended for a new subdivision on the south side of the village.
Citizen concerns, support
Dean Pallotta, owner of Dino’s Cappuccinos, which directly neighbors the former Earth Rose property, spoke favorably of the plan at the commission meeting. For him, creating a space that would allow for new retailers to set up shop would lead to positive economic effects for his and other downtown businesses, he said.
“For 25 years, I’ve watched zero dollars go into [maintaining] that building; I’ve watched numerous critters who live there come and go,” Pallotta said. “The building has got to go — it’s just not safe. [A new structure] will clean up the area for us.”
Caroline Mullin, the executive director for the Yellow Springs Senior Center — another nearby Xenia Avenue property — was also supportive of building new.
“The Senior Center … will be glad to see the space revised in a way that revitalizes downtown further,” Mullin wrote in a letter to the commission.
Neighboring residents Wayne Gulden and Bette Kelley, were supportive of the demolition. Kelley stated at the meeting: “If you wait long enough, you won’t have to tear the building down; it’s already becoming one with the ground.”
However, the two were concerned about the impact the back entrance to the retail space could have on the flow of traffic through Kieth’s Alley.
“Kieth’s Alley is not a through-street,” Gulden and Kelley wrote in a letter to the commission. “It’s an alley primarily used for delivery, parking and access to the other buildings facing Xenia Avenue. It is not well-lit, has no sidewalk or other provisions for pedestrians. One has to wonder what sort of retail would be appropriate for such a hidden location.”
The pair, whose Corry Street residence sits directly across from the former Earth Rose property, also said they were worried about the possibility of intrusive lighting and signage for a future business.
Recognizing Gulden and Kelley’s concerns, Planning Commission members ultimately approved the conditional-use application to demolish the structure and build a new one with the requirement that Iron Table Holdings submit a lighting plan prior to the issuance of the zoning and building permits. Depending on how comprehensive the lighting plan is, Village staff may require the development company to create additional screening to be set up between the downstairs retail space and the alley. The commission’s approval of the plan also required that Iron Table Holdings ensure that stormwater runoff is routed to the existing storm system catch basin at the rear of the new structure.
Present at Monday’s Planning Commission meeting were commission members Susan Stiles, Gary Zaremsky, Stephen Green and alternate member Scott Osterholm. Village Council liaison Gavin DeVore Leonard, Planning and Zoning Administrator Denise Swinger, Village Clerk Judy Kintner and Village Solicitor Amy Blankenship were also in attendance.