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Air Force opens nearly 80 acres for development near Wright-Patt

The Air Force has opened nearly 80 acres next to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to future private development through a land lease program.

The site will become the seventh spot on the sprawling 8,145-acre military base where the Air Force has looked for a developer to lease land and possibly build shared-use buildings. The base now has offered more than 200 acres for potential development to academia, industry or government agencies.

As the defense budget declined, the Air Force started so-called enhanced-use leases, which lease land to developers in exchange for cash or shared use of facilities for up to 50 years. The triangular-like 79-acre parcel stands between the museum, which will start construction of a $35.4 million hangar gallery expansion this summer, and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center acquisition complex along Loop Road West.

Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of federal programs, said the high-visibility, high-traffic spot next to the museum — a major entryway onto the base — could be a draw developers. The museum attracts more than a million tourists a year. It has a $40 million yearly economic impact, a study has shown.

“That’s a prime location,” he said.

The possible uses of the sites “are numerous,” Marie Vanover, a Wright-Patterson spokeswoman, said in an email, but nothing is final. “We have not identified a specific purpose for any of these units. Any proposals received will be evaluated on their merit and potential return on investment to the (Air Force).”

Site development proposals are due in late August.

“We continue to receive numerous queries on the candidate sites; however, nothing formal has been proposed,” Vanover said in the email.

Potential stakeholders are scheduled to tour the sites Wednesday, the second time since February the Air Force has led a tour of the locations both inside and just outside the fence line. This marks the first time the land near the museum will be visited.

The Air Force Civil Engineer Center will lead a team of people who would choose from developers’ proposals.

The Air Force offer parallels the city of Riverside’s long-term plan to create the 25-year, $425 million Center of Flight project on 42 acres outside the base fence line near the museum. The city has targeted the site for office, hotel, residential, retail, restaurant and educational development.

Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute said the Air Force proposal inside the fence line next to the museum can “only help.” He declined further comment Tuesday.

Riverside Assistant City Manager Emily M. Christian said in an email it is“exciting news” that the Air Force may move forward on new leases.

The city has entered into new leases and renewed others at the Wright Pointe office buildings at 5100 and 5200 Springfield, which Riverside purchased for $2.6 million last year as part of the Center of Flight area. The city owns 20 acres of the site, and no new construction has started, she said in the email.

National Aviation Heritage Alliance Executive Director Tony Sculimbrene said he does not think the addition of lease-able acres next to the museum will make much of a difference because there has been availability of land for years outside the fence in Riverside.

He also said he doesn’t think developing the land on the base will detract from the museum.

“There’s plenty of ground out there,” he said. “It’s a huge place.”

The Air Force museum supports leasing the land, but is not involved in the Air Force program, according to museum spokesman Rob Bardua.

The south side of the land would have building height restrictions so the museum can use a more than 7,000-foot-long airstrip, Bardua said in an email. The museum has a vision of future growth and new buildings between 2017 to 2061, but no timeline or cost estimates have been decided, he said.

The service branch has searched for new ways to slash expenses with fewer dollars to spend. The Air Force Community Partnership Initative has paired the base with local and state government, education and economic development leaders to look at how both sides can share resources to save money.

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