Wright Brothers first bicycle shop planned for demolition; city zoning overturns previous decision

DAYTON — The building that was home to the Wright Brothers first bicycle shop and Gem City Ice Cream for more than a half century is planned to be demolished after the City of Dayton Board of Zoning Appeals overturned a decision by the Dayton Landmark Commission.

The city appealed the Landmark Commission’s September decision to deny the proposed demolition of the property at 1005 W. Third Street and the board of zoning appeals reversed the decision.

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“Staff believes that the zoning code requirements for the removal of a nuisance structure have been fulfilled and that the denial of the Landmark Commission shall be reversed,” the board of zoning appeals said in its decision.

The building served as the home of Gem City Ice Cream beginning in 1902. The company offered the first manufactured ice cream in Dayton.

“The present façade dates to 1914, but the industrial building actually consists of a series of additions wrapped around the original structure that housed the first Wright bicycle shop in 1893,” according to the National Park Service with the U.S. Department of the Interior.

According to city records, the building was declared a public nuisance by building services in 2008. From 2008-2010 the Dayton Office of Economic Development worked with several developers for potential redevelopment opportunities, however no one was able to raise the money to support rehabbing the building.

In testimony from two nuisance abatement specialists with the city, they noted areas of “major structural concern they found within the building, most notably the spalling and deterioration of all interior concrete support members.”

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The building also was found in a 2007 structural report to be considered “experimental” in its construction method. The report also noted it was built before modern building codes and before the use of reinforced concrete was fully understood.

The building is listed on Preservation Dayton’s most endangered properties list. Preservation Dayton is a non-profit that focuses on promoting the restoration, renovation and rehabilitation of historic structures and settings as economically viable activities and enhancements to the public welfare, according to its website.

“What we are interested in is the redevelopment of the site using historic tax credits preserving what is still viable,” said Dan Barton, trustee with Preservation Dayton. “Components of the building are still viable.”

Barton hopes that the city would consider using historic tax credits to revitalize the building similar to what has been done in Over the Rhine in Cincinnati. One idea he has would involve transforming the salvageable portions of the building into student housing for Sinclair College.