Who would have guessed that the construction of a floodwall would open the floodgates to the future of Dayton, Kentucky?
For years, this tiny river town thrived on the banks of the Ohio, dependent upon its waters for livelihood. That relationship changed when the floods, which tormented the area in 1885, 1913 and 1937, began to drive people and companies away. In 1981, a $17M floodwall was finally erected to safeguard the city from the waters which form its northern boundary.
Initially, the erection of this water barricade had nearly the same impact as the destructive waters themselves; the demolition necessary to construct the floodwall resulted in the displacement of over 2,000 residents and 800 homes. In the nearly three decades since, the population of this quaint and historic river town has seen a 43 percent decline; yet, the 5700 people who remain behind believe that the future of Dayton is on the rise.
Left in the wake of the floodwall construction are 152 contiguous acres of prime riverfront property - manna in the eyes of developers.
First on the scene, developer DCI Properties-DKY Cincinnati, has been working with the city of Dayton to map out plans which include the construction of 2,000 homes; 480,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and entertainment space; and 450,000 square feet of commercial space. Terry Chan, CEO of C&M Investment Group
, has also witnessed the potential in this available tract of land. Invited by DCI to invest in the development (referred to as the Manhattan Harbour Development Project
) Chan admits that his initial interest was narrower in scope.
"My strength is in finance and technology, and our original involvement was focused on the contributions we could make in those ways to the area along the undeveloped riverfront," Chan said.
His perspective changed when he came to know the people and the richness of the history that is Dayton; a change that may have a little bit to do with the influence of City Administrator, Dennis Redmond. A proud resident, Redmond thinks of the people who make up this river town as his own family.
"We have a unique and wonderful culture here in Dayton. They are the best bunch of people you could ever come to know."
Excited about the Manhattan Harbour Project, and its impact on their city, Redmond voices an opinion held by most residents, "One of the downsides of new development is that sometimes the old neighborhoods are forgotten - the byproduct of the bypass, so to speak. We like to refer to this initiative as the Dayton Development Project, because it will encompass not only the undeveloped riverfront, but the entire community," he said.
Rewind to Terry Chan . . . "My vision has changed considerably since coming to know the people and the history of Dayton. It is more comprehensive in scope than before. I see potential beyond the banks of the river and into each and every home in Dayton." He respects the sense of community, and the commitment by Dayton residents to grow as a whole, and has embraced that sentiment as his own.
Chan is also eager to introduce some of the advancements in technology that he believes would fully integrate the community and position it as a model for city developments of the future. C&M Investment Group has introduced the concept of transforming Dayton into the nation's first Ubiquitous city,
a city in which all of its information systems - residential, school, medical, business, and governmental - would be interconnected. New construction would be outfitted from the ground up; established areas would be retrofitted.
Imagine a park bench synced with music: plug in a favorite tune and kick back while your dog catches his breath; an iPad in your home that lets your fingers do the grocery shopping (maybe even the delivery); a security card that, when swiped as you enter your office building, turns on the lights and the coffee pot before you've even gotten on the elevator; a smart phone to pay for that wonderful meal you just enjoyed at that new riverfront restaurant. Futuristic? Perhaps, but ubiquitous technology is a trend that Chan believes is at Dayton's doorstep; one which promises to reduce costs, while increasing productivity and connectivity.
"High-tech companies, such as Apple, Google and IBM, are looking to invest in communities such as this, where they can control the user experience from top to bottom, and prototype their next generation products in a city that has a near-100% adoption rate," Chan says.
Beyond this exciting aspect of the development, and in keeping with the development-as-a-whole concept voiced by Redmond, and espoused by C&M Investment Group, an urban renewal component has also been introduced to the development mix. In fact, Chan envisions the entire project as more of an economic, than real-estate, development and speaks as passionately about job creation and revitalization as he does the construction of new retail centers. Plans for the construction of a transportation corridor linking the older areas of Dayton with its new counterpart, will help to encourage that osmotic benefit.
C&M Investment Group and community leaders are casting a wide net and linking arms with a variety of investors to jump-start this pioneering development. They have already met with several individuals, and large and small companies, who are willing to sponsor various components of the city's infrastructure, in exchange for the privilege of being a part of the exponential potential of this development. "Whether it's in dollars, services, or volunteer hours, people want to be a part of this," says Chan. Committed to upholding the visionary integrity of the development, Chan also emphasizes the importance of a common focus among each of these contributors, insistent that each provider have "the right approach and commitment to building the right team."
The State of Kentucky is already onboard. Through the efforts of C&M Investment Group, along with officials from Dayton and Campbell County, the state has approved a critical source of funding for the project, in the form of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF districts are allowed to set aside tax revenues generated by a development to use in the building of the development's infrastructure. This revenue would be used to pay for roads, bridges, public transportation, utility systems, and other public buildings and facilities.
Also being pursued is the federal government, in the form of EB-5 designation. If approved, foreign investors would be encouraged to invest as well. In return for the creation of 10 full-time jobs, through the investment of $1 million in a commercial venture or $500,000 in designated areas of the city, the EB-5 designation would grant visas to foreign investors. As expressed by Redmond, "There is broad interest in the Dayton Development Project. As a global community, we welcome residents and investors alike, both domestic and foreign."
Indeed, the floodgates of Dayton are open, the steamboat era has passed, and this tiny river town is ushering in a wave of tsunamic proportion. Who would have guessed that a floodwall would be taking all the credit?