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Millions sought for local projects

Mercy Medical Center, downtown garage among those on priority list.

A coalition is seeking $8.5 million in public funding for local economic development projects in Clark and Champaign counties, including $2.5 million to demolish Mercy Medical Center.

The Dayton Development Coalition’s new priority list of regional projects vying for local, state and federal dollars also includes Springfield’s pitch to get $3 million to build a four-story, 485-space parking garage downtown and $2 million for a hangar complex at the airport related to unmanned aerial vehicles. City officials say both would lead to more local jobs.

Community Mercy Health Partners could demolish the main hospital and the mental health facility and would seek money for remediation planning and site preparation at the Fountain Boulevard campus, which was vacated in 2008 when Mercy Medical hospital staff merged with Community Hospital staff at the East High Street location.

Hospital spokesman Dave Lamb said officials provided the estimate to the coalition in October to help prioritize area projects, but he stressed no formal plans are in place for the Fountain Boulevard campus.

“We have no plans for remediation and demolition. Our priority right now is the demolition of the High Street campus,” Lamb said. “This request was if federal funds are available, but most likely there are not. We’re going to take care of High Street first.”

Miami Scioto Holdings is also seeking $1 million in funding to renovate the Douglas Inn, a 29-room hotel in downtown Urbana that is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Dayton Development Coalition includes the city of Springfield, Clark County government and several local businesses and institutions.

The coalition typically receives 50 to 100 applications. Those selected were ranked along with other quality-of-life projects and dozens of other proposals for defense, transportation, economic development, hospitals and health care.

Selected projects have the support of the coalition and community leaders but are not guaranteed funding, said Kelly Geers, director of government projects for the coalition.

“At the end of the day, the responsibility lies on project sponsors, but we will help them as much as we can,” Geers said.

Lamb said while some buildings at the Fountain campus remain occupied, he said securing money for demolition of the vacant structures is key to developing the site.

“We can’t develop the site further unless we take care of the building,” Lamb said.

Geers said the hangar complex is listed as a priority because its expected to attract UAV developers and bring dozens of jobs to the region.

City officials are seeking $2 million from the state and plan to invest an additional $300,000 in local funding toward the hangar complex, she said.

Since 2006, the city has invested more than $3 million in improvements at the airport, including water, sewer, roads, firefighting operations and snow-removal equipment, but it hasn’t updated the hangars.

City officials say the development of UAVs and related programs can bring jobs to the area if the Federal Aviation Administration selects Ohio as one of six testing areas later this year.

The areas will provide data to help the FAA safely integrate routine unmanned flights into manned airspace by 2015.

Tom Franzen, Springfield’s assistant city manager and director of economic development, said the hangar project could add up to 100 high-paying jobs to the area and support existing businesses in the community.

Franzen said the support of the coalition and community leaders increases the city’s chances of getting funding for both the hangar complex and the parking garage.

“It means a lot to the state and at the federal level that these projects rank as a high priority at the local level and in the region,” Franzen said. “We’re hopeful, but there still has to be funding available.”

He also said securing funding for the parking garage is critical to attracting jobs to the community.

“The parking garage is critical to allow downtown Springfield to attract new jobs and retain the ones that are there,” Franzen said.

The projects are part of the Dayton Region Priority Development and Advocacy Committee’s priority list, according to documents obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.

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