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Sinclair looks to a greener downtown future

A significant portion of downtown Dayton could get a major face-lift if Sinclair Community College moves forward with its new master plan, which envisions eventually closing Fourth Street to create more green space, establishes a dramatic new “front door” to the grounds and addresses students’ biggest concern: parking.

Sinclair spent months and $550,000 for consultants to develop the long-term plan, which touches all areas of the 65-acre campus — from a Life and Health Sciences Building to be constructed at Fourth and Perry streets to new recreation fields that can be used by the community on the western side of campus across the Great Miami River. It suggests also Sinclair partner in establishing mixed-use districts. The districts would be adjacent to the campus in the Wright-Dunbar Village and include shops and housing to reinvigorate West Fourth Street at the new campus entrance.

“A key point is that the Dayton master plan is in draft form; no projects are finalized until they are voted upon by our board of trustees,” said spokesman Adam Murka. “Our expectation is that these projects will unfold over the next 10 to 20 years.”

The plan has been accepted by the school’s board of trustees. The 125-year-old college, which has no debt, must now decide whether to move forward on the projects, how to fund them and in what time frame.

“The plan itself is important as it becomes our road map that helps us prioritize and focus our resources and investments,” said Sinclair trustee Robert Connelly.

“What we need to do now is take those next steps in bringing this to life,” he explained at a recent board meeting.

A connected downtown

The investment will not only benefit Sinclair, it would invigorate downtown. The plan, for which nearly 100 community members offered input, looks for ways to connect the nearly 20,000 students and employees who use the campus facilities during any given week to the rest of downtown.

”They’re looking at ways to better connect the campus to downtown and downtown to the campus. That’s really critically important,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “When you get more street traffic and more people moving around, it adds just to the overall vibrancy (of downtown).”

Some ideas are likely to move forward before others, and Sinclair has identified key projects for its 40-year-old campus. Trustees Chairman Barney Wright said a top priority will be constructing a world-class Life and Health Sciences Building to bring together programs that are now scattered throughout campus. The state has already directed $4 million for the project.

Other key projects are: developing the Third, Fourth and Fifth streets mixed-use partnership districts; renovating buildings one through seven; enhancing the quality and quantity of parking by 850 spaces with surface lots or garages; designing a new library entrance; expanding the conference center; adding parking and recreation fields to west campus; creating a pathway for students through campus; and completing landscaping projects.

The idea to eliminate Fourth Street between East Perry Street and South Robert Drive is more long-term — but it already has some city leaders excited. Both Perry and Fifth streets could be made two-way because traffic volumes do not require those to be one-ways, according to Sasaki Associates, Inc., the lead the Massachusetts-based consultant firm on the master plan.

“That’s a great thing we need to talk about,” said Dayton City Commissioner Nan Whaley.

“There could be some great bikeable and walkable options,” she said. “We need to put it out to the community.”

The main entrance to campus — which does not exist right now — would be established at Fourth and Perry streets. “You’ve got a lot of exciting stuff that happens on this campus, but it’s all kind of hidden away right now,” said consultant Bryan Irwin.

The plan outlines also access “gateways” to campus for people using the theater, attending athletic events, visiting the conference center or attending classes. Additionally, it calls for buildings 15 and 16 to be demolished.

“The plan demonstrates in a very tangible way Sinclair’s ongoing commitment to downtown Dayton and the metropolitan core. I’m proud of that,” said trustees chairman Wright. “Sinclair has undertaken a very thoughtful and deliberate process to make sure the physical facilities are efficiently and thoughtfully laid out. We want want to make sure that the facilities provide for effective learning for the community the next 100 years in the way it has for the past 100.”

Student government vice president Amy Cotterman said she is excited about more parking, more meeting space for students and the potential for Sinclair to use more green technology.

“I’m very optimistic about what I see,” she said. “I think it’s time for Sinclair to do a little face-lift and I like the direction they’re taking.”

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