Developer sees great promise in riverfront Miamisburg power plant

Mar. 30—A former power plant on the Great Miami River will be transformed from a “brown field into a jobs field,” the business director of Frontier Industrial said Tuesday.

In January, Frontier bought the former 365-megawatt O.H. Hutchings generation station property with about 200 acres off the river in Miamisburg for just over $866,000. Dayton Power & Light, now AES Ohio, closed the plant in 2013.

“This building is … substantially intact. And there’s a lot of good stuff in there,” Pat Ford, business development director for Frontier Industrial, said Tuesday in an online conference with city of Miamisburg, Montgomery County and Miami Conservancy District officials.

A redevelopment of the site with a mixed-use array of purposes is being discussed. In an interview with the Dayton Daily News in January, Ford said recreation and housing could one day be situated there.

“We all think you can do a lot with that property; it’s going to take time, money and effort,” Dan Foley, the riverway director for the Miami Conservancy District, said in a video played in the online conference.

“Great ideas are kind of cooking for what’s going to go on down there,” Miamisburg Mayor Michelle Collins said.

Frontier buys decommissioned industrial plants and sites, Ford said, and the company has been doing that for nearly 20 years across the country, including in Ohio and West Virginia.

“This type of property is squarely in our wheelhouse,” he said.

He believes all assessment and remediation can be accomplished at the local site in about three years, but that doesn’t mean new development will start immediately in year four, he cautioned.

Development will depend on the market analysis and what local stakeholders want to do with the property, Ford said.

“We’re going to be partners with you for the long-term on that property,” Foley said. “It’s exciting.”

Ford sang the site’s praises in the meeting more than once. “This has to be one of the most attractive gems of a building that we have ever come across,” he said.

He added: “When we walked the site, that art deco design hit us square in the face, and that stopped being (merely) a remediation project … when we saw this building, that was one thing, we thought, ‘Wow, this is something that’s unique.'”

He estimated the footprint of the former power plant, which was built in the late 1940s, as “every bit the length of a football field.”

“When it’s the size of a football field, that’s a good acre under the roof,” Ford said.

“You feel like a little kid looking for Easter eggs, and then you can’t get enough of the site,” he said at another point.

Two of the features that make the property unique are its smoke stacks and its turbine deck inside. Ford said the deck will have to be removed, to better reveal a “huge indoor facility with this art deco design.”

But it remains to be seen whether any of the stacks can be retained, he also said.

After acquisition, Frontier examines a site’s environmental liability, including waste and asbestos remediation, a process that can take about 18 months, Ford said. The company also performs a commercial and residential market analysis.

“We also consider the value-adds we can make to the site,” he said.

Then Frontier intends to engage an architecture or planning firm and begin talking with local stakeholders about the best uses for this site.

“We’re at that stage, and I think this is really a call to work,” said Ford.

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