DAYTON — The National Aviation Heritage Alliance (NAHA) has launched a feasibility study for a national capital fundraising campaign for the Wright brothers’ factory site.
NAHA’s board of trustees voted in its regular meeting on Tuesday, April 8, to hire Pruehs & Associates LLC of Chicago to conduct the study, which represents NAHA’s first step in the campaign. The study is expected to take approximately three months.
The campaign’s goal would be to secure the two historic Wright Company factory buildings and surrounding property for future use as a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The site is a part of the former Delphi Home Avenue automotive parts manufacturing plant.
Wilbur and Orville Wright formed the Wright Company in 1909 and had the factory buildings erected in 1910 and 1911. The National Park Service has identified the buildings as the first in America built for the purpose of producing airplanes. Adding the factory to the national park’s other five units would complete the story of the Wright brothers’ lives and their invention, development and commercialization of the airplane in Dayton.
NAHA launched the study on the heels of another positive development: Ohio’s approval of $250,000 for the project in its state capital budget. Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the budget bill on April 1.
The state capital funding has importance beyond the dollars themselves, said Frank Winslow, chairman of NAHA’s board of trustees.
“It validates the project as important not only to us, but to the state of Ohio,” he said. “It will clearly help our philanthropic fundraising.”
The 20-acre historic parcel also includes three attached buildings of matching style and land suitable for redevelopment. NAHA envisions a wide range of potential uses for the property that would complement the Wright factory. Some examples are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs, aviation education and training, aerospace research and possibly light aircraft or unmanned air vehicle production.
In addition to the historic parcel, the study will evaluate the feasibility of acquiring the remaining 34 acres that make up the former Delphi plant for commercial or industrial redevelopment.
“These adjacent parcels would be especially suited to an aviation or aerospace manufacturer that sees value in tying its brand to the birthplace of America’s aerospace
industry,” said Tony Sculimbrene, NAHA’s executive director.
Located about two miles west of downtown Dayton and eight miles west of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the site has an active railroad line and borders U.S. 35, which connects to Interstate 75.
Demolition of the old Delphi manufacturing buildings has progressed rapidly over the past year with the aid of a $3 million Clean Ohio Fund grant and additional private investment. The site’s owner, Home Avenue Redevelopment LLC (HAR), expects demolition to be complete by the end of June. Brownfields redeveloper Hull & Associates Inc., which formed HAR for the project, has worked closely with the National Park Service, the City of Dayton and NAHA to redevelop the site for commercial and industrial use while preserving the historic Wright Company buildings.
“We are extremely fortunate to be working with a redevelopment company that recognizes and appreciates the historic value of these buildings,” Winslow said.