UD will incorporate historic church into new health facility following community pleas

The plans were released Wednesday after a private meeting between UD, the development team and community members who fought to preserve the building. Photo of the plans courtesy of Shawn Robinson.

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Zoë Hill | News Editor

The University of Dayton and Premier Health’s new healthcare facility will incorporate the historic South Park Methodist Church building in new plans after the community rallied to preserve it. 

Premier Health announced the revised plans Wednesday for the proposed student urgent care and staff clinic on South Brown Street. South Park Methodist Church will now house physical and occupational rehabilitation services, according to Premier Health. A new facility will be built next to the church for additional health services, pending the city’s approval.

“We appreciate our partnership with the neighbors and Preservation Dayton and their encouragement to take a second look at the site,” said Jason Woodard, principal of Woodard Development.

The parking lot will additionally be reworked to create more space between the facility and neighboring homes, as well as preserve mature trees that line the north side of the church.

Also Read: UD announces new health facility scheduled to open summer 2022

Original plans unveiled in April intended to tear down the church and a former dentist’s office, according to developers on the project. 

The 1925 church, nestled between Sawmill and Stonemill, features an architectural style that has become synonymous with Dayton. The Classical-style columns prominent on the face of the church can also be seen framing the porches of fraternity houses around UD’s student neighborhood. The three sets of bright-red double doors stand out when driving by the church.

Preservation Dayton, a local preservation society, sparked an initiative to save South Park Methodist shortly after the April announcement. The group proposed developers repurpose the building rather than knocking it down. 

The campaign engaged with current students and alumni of UD, asking them to call on university president Eric Spina, Woodward and a number of others associated with the project. 

“An adaptive reuse of the church — rather than its tragic destruction — will result in a more attractive and financially successful development that garners the support of the community,” Preservation Dayton said. 

The group cited the distinct architecture and deep religious impact of the historic church that has served Dayton for nearly a century. Repurposing the church would also contribute to UD’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, and the project would be financially beneficial to the university and Premier Health because of tax credits given to historical developments, according to Preservation Dayton. 

The South Park Methodist Church is not currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it may meet the consideration criteria based on its significance to the city and prominent architectural design, according to Preservation Dayton.

A Greater Downtown Priority Land Use Meeting in May revealed the community’s interest in saving the church. Project planning was halted so the developers could listen to and consider feedback from Daytonians. 

“The Brown Street medical building partners have paused the public approval process to engage in additional conversations with community members and explore how some of the discussion points that have been raised might be addressed,” Preservation Dayton told the Dayton Daily News in June.

The development team and the university planned to hear from community members in a private meeting on Wednesday. Following the meeting, the new plans were announced and Woodward gave the following statement:

“It is not always possible to reuse a long-vacant, special-use building such as a former church. But by taking a second look in this case, we were pleased to find a feasible way to balance the preservation of the building while integrating a new structure that will together provide the necessary space for these medical services.”

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