Congress approves $450,000 for Wright brothers factory buildings

Wright Airplane Factory buildings were occupied by Delphi until 2009.

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Wright Airplane Factory buildings were occupied by Delphi until 2009.

The National Park Service will have $450,000 to buy two historic buildings at the former Wright Co. airplane factory site in West Dayton, Ohio, under a $1.3 trillion federal omnibus spending bill President Donald Trump signed Friday.

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But the years-long quest to buy buildings 1 and 2, the first factory in the world to produce airplanes, is anything but over, officials said.

“It’s a small, positive step in a long, difficult march,” said Timothy Gaffney, a National Aviation Heritage Alliance spokesman.

The Park Service and the National Aviation Heritage Alliance have coveted the buildings in the hope the public would be able to see the site as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Kendell Thompson, the park’s acting superintendent, said Friday he was waiting to determine what the next step is in the process.

The historic buildings are part of a 54-acre parcel, site of the former Delphi Home Avenue plant, that has been put on the commercial market.

A previous plan to buy the entire site was scaled back, according to Tony Sculimbrene, executive director of the National Aviation Heritage Alliance, who has spent years in negotiations on the future of the historic location.

The complexity of negotiations has been complicated by former owner Delphi’s past bankruptcy, land covenants and environmental liability concerns, Sculimbrene said. Former auto parts production buildings were demolished and the site has been environmentally investigated and remediated under a $3 million Clean Ohio grant, officials said.

Hull & Associates/Home Avenue Redevelopment LLC purchased the site in 2012 with the intent to remediate environmental issues and sell it. The property is for sale on the commercial market.

Brad White, a managing partner of Home Avenue Redevelopment LLC, said the $450,000 appropriation was “good news” because the intent over the years was to sell the historic buildings to the National Park Service.

David Lotterer, vice president of commercial real estate broker JLL, which is marketing the property, declined comment Friday.

While the park service has eyed the two historic buildings, Dayton Metro Library’s  plan to build a $10 million branch library on about 7½ acres on the site has stalled because officials have not been able to reach a deal, the Dayton Daily News reported this month.

Dayton Metro Library executive director Tim Kambitsch said earlier this month the library did not want to move to the site on its own because of concerns incompatible uses might move in nearby, and it did not want to pay more than the property was valued.

NAHA’s long-term vision for the property would bring commercial and “complimentary” industrial redevelopment, such as advanced manufacturing, to the former factory site, Gaffney said.

Orville and Wilbur Wright's airplane factory built 100 airplanes between 1910 and 1911. General Motors and later Delphi acquired the property, and built new factories to manufacture auto parts for decades. The Delphi plant was demolished in 2013.

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