Bringing Back the Witch’s Broom

The “Yellow Brick Road Map” to the Dayton Arcade Library


By Paul Noah
Publisher, Dayton City Paper

Just after the $187 million library levy passed, Hollywood storyboard artist and long-time friend J. Todd Anderson met with me in early December 2012 and insisted I permit him to proceed and author his fanciful Dayton Arcade Library cover story finally published on March 5 of this year.  Prior to then, none of us at the Dayton City Paper had any contact whatsoever with the Montgomery County Library board of directors or Dayton Arcade owner Gunther Berg.

“Are you serious?” was all that was eloquently asked by Mr. Berg in an email to J. Todd the next day, March 6. I spoke with Gunther Berg for the first time the day after that and have since learned much about him and his world-class team of architects and developers. In addition to clarifying facts, I have also learned and have personally concluded there is much myth and misconception in this region about Gunther Berg.

What is not myth is since purchasing the Dayton Arcade four years ago, Mr. Berg’s group has accrued over $300,000 in unpaid property related taxes, in addition to having allowed the façade of part of the five-building complex at the corner of Fourth and Ludlow Streets to decay to the point that the City of Dayton had to barricade the sidewalks below for safety reasons. The good news is all of the above is now in remedy process with City of Dayton.

Beyond minor nuisances the city argues exist within the Arcade, the buildings are structurally sound and renovation-ready. We have learned there is nothing current technology cannot permit for the Arcade renovation.

J. Todd told an interesting story in March, and to follow is a no-holds-barred interview with Gunther Berg.  However, we feel it is important to express our vision of the necessary timeline to resurrect the Dayton Arcade beyond its former glory, to thrive in perpetuity as the new home of the Dayton Metro Library’s main branch.

Shortly after our March 5 cover story, Dayton Metro Library director Tim Kambitsch agreed to listen if I returned with a solid argument as to how the Arcade could be a viable alternative to their current library reconstruction plan. I ended the conversation commenting, “I’m Dorothy, you’re the wizard and I will bring back the witch’s broom,” determined to present what I had come to learn as to how the Arcade Library concept could work.

On April 17, I “brought back the broom” as I stood in front of the Dayton Metro Library Board of Trustees’ public meeting and challenged them to temporarily press the “pause” button on their current Downtown Dayton main branch plan and to consider an amazing – but more importantly, realistic – alternative location option, an historic building that would cost significantly less than the current $67 million plan that would also serve as the catalyst for the continued revitalization of Downtown Dayton: The Dayton Arcade Library.

My motivation logic was simple: the premise behind last November’s library levy was flawed in that no prior comprehensive study was ever engaged in to consider such alternate historic building options. Therefore, their patrons were never given a true, viable historic location option in their surveys. Based on what I have learned about current technology, there is nothing in the levy language that cannot be fulfilled by a Dayton Arcade Library.  And finally, it can be done for significantly less cost, be cheaper to maintain over time and survive longer than any new building construction.

Further, Mayoral candidate A.J. Wagner pointed out at this meeting a mechanism where the spending deadline related to the recent sale of library bonds can be extended for a short period of time without legally compromising the process.

How much time? Only 90 days. We wholeheartedly believe there is no harm in asking the Library Board of Trustees to grant 90 days to conduct a comprehensive study to consider the Dayton Arcade as a viable historic building location. And finally, this study will be privately funded where no taxpayer money will be spent in this process. Therefore, why not?

The following five steps are the “Road Map” toward the future Dayton Arcade Library:

STEP 1: The public demands Library Board support.
Please agree to a quick, hard look. We need a fair, honest crack at this that includes key premises:

a.     Time – Give us a reasonable time period to test out the Arcade Library feasibility – no more than 90 days.

b.     Information – The library and its consultant team needs to provide the complete, current and transparent set of background information on the current library program including but not limited to all specifications, code requirements, the planning process to date, budget, etc.

c.      Cooperation – The library staff and consultant team should be available to the Arcade planning team to work side by side and to always act and respond with transparent due diligence.

STEP 2: A volunteer advisory committee must be formed.
I have no doubt the Montgomery County community can summon up great, bold leaders to volunteer and step to the plate – within days if necessary – to form an Arcade Library Advisory Committee for the purpose of acquiring a broad range of public perspectives in the planning process and to build community support.

STEP 3: A study planning team must be created with Library Board approval.
There is a company called The Dayton Arcade Development Group (DADG) that will assemble a world-class study/planning team to conduct the study. DADG will also pay for this study! DADG will offer their suggestions of persons of world-class caliber to make up the final five-member study planning team. No suggested study planning team candidate can become a member of this exclusive five-member team without final approval by an appointed representative of the Library Board of Trustees. Given his role in the current library plan, the Dayton City Paper suggests the Board of Trustees select Mr. John Fabelo of LWC of Dayton to represent the Board of Trustees in the study planning team selection process by personally approving the final five DADG suggested team members.

The roles of the five key study planning team members are as follows:

1.     Library Consultant

2.     Planner/Architect – More specifically, someone experienced at public facilities and who especially has a strong track record of adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

3.     Construction Estimator – Someone with a proven track record of providing accurate cost estimates for adaptive reuse of historic buildings.

4.     Finance advisor – Someone with a clear track record of experience at creative public and private finance, historic tax credits, etc.

5.     Development Manager

STEP 4: Timeline and budget 

DADG will ultimately need to put together a detailed process schedule, timeline and budget. It is my understanding the study cost will be at least $50,000. However, even if the final cost exceeds $100,000, I have been promised by the Dayton Arcade Development Group – as they have also told the Dayton Daily News – they are completely committed to going forward and paying for this entire study process! There will be no taxpayer cost for this study whatsoever!

STEP 5: Deliverables 

The study planning team will deliver the final report within 90 days to the Board of Trustees. The report will consist of five comprehensive target topic answers:

a.      The complete concept plan – This plan will identify how the Arcade will meet every library program, including – but not limited to – code, specification, use and other promises found in the levy. It will also include solutions for what to do with the old main library branch.

b.      A conceptual budget and financing plan – A comprehensive roadmap will be laid out in terms of how the Arcade Library project will be financed, including historic credits and more, yielding a final cost significantly less than the $67 million dollars currently slated for the downtown main branch.

c.      The catalytic impact plan – This will be a summary of direct and indirect benefits in Downtown Dayton and surrounding communities.

d.      Models for comparison – Examples will be presented of other successful library adaptive reuse projects, such as Fort Piqua. There are over a dozen rock-solid, similar examples, including public libraries in Boston and New York.

e.      The schedule – The schedule as to how this project can move forward will be as clearly laid out.

The report from Step 5 above will show the Dayton Arcade Library plan will work. Or it won’t.  The Library Board of Trustees should have no fear of waiting no more than 90 days for that report.

Finally, we are so confident the above road map is comprehensive, we invite anyone to poke holes in it as long as you are specifically telling us why fulfilling steps 1 through 5 isn’t a correct road map toward an appropriate final report. You’re certainly welcome to argue against the Arcade Library solution itself if you wish. However, what we’re specifically inviting here are arguments against the structural integrity of the road map itself – and nothing more – from anyone with true industry-related qualifications, experience, expertise and authority.
If you believe the above road map is worthwhile, please sign our petition at

Reach DCP Publisher Paul Noahat


For the love of Dayton

By Leo DeLuca

The historic, breathtaking, and 23-year-vacant Dayton Arcade could possibly be the perfect home for the Dayton Metro Library’s main campus. With the passing of the November library levy, Dayton now possesses millions of dollars that could potentially be employed in restoring the “crown jewel of the Gem City.” This may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

An up-to-date architectural study on whether or not the Arcade would be a suitable home for the DML’s main campus has not been conducted. It is the Dayton City Paper’s aim to gather public support in requesting that the Dayton Metro Library conduct this study. Perhaps it will prove that the Arcade Library is unfeasible? So be it. One thing is certain – we will never be able to make a well-informed assessment without it.

Marrying a city’s structural needs with its obligation to honor its heritage is a novel idea. It is an idea that demands serious consideration and it is one that has already been employed – both in Dayton and in nearby Piqua, Ohio.

According to an April 12 article in the Dayton Daily News, “the planned development of student housing at the Dayton Daily News’ Ludlow Street site matches a resource – Dayton’s large stock of historic, vacant buildings.” While Dayton city officials iterate the difficulty of transforming historic buildings, urbanization is a global epidemic and there are innumerable success stories worldwide. These stories are telling examples that the Arcade Library can become a reality.

More than any other city, Piqua, Ohio – a mere 30 miles north – has proven that the Arcade Library could be possible. In 2006, the citizens of Piqua banded together to restore and transform the once-grand, then-dilapidated Fort Piqua Hotel into the Piqua Public Library. In doing so, they won an Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

According to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website, “the City of Piqua boldly stepped up to the plate … to transform the faded old hotel into a bright new home for the local library. Federal and state grants and tax credits helped move the massive effort forward … a remarkable achievement in a community of 20,000 people.”

The story of the Fort Piqua Hotel echoes that of the Dayton Arcade. Upon opening in 1891, the architecturally brilliant hotel immediately became a source of pride for city residents. Unfortunately, Fort Piqua was eventually abandoned and fell to shambles. Once a symbol of strength and dignity for the city, Fort Piqua came to represent weakness and shame.

Piqua’s citizens were not inclined to watch their heritage fade away, however. Through tremendous community support, the Fort Piqua Hotel was saved and transformed into the city’s main library. On the website of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, President Richard Moe is quoted as saying, “There was every reason in the world why this project should have failed, but every time an obstacle was placed in front of them, people in this small community came together to overcome it. The renovation of the Fort Piqua Hotel has restored community pride and demonstrated that there’s no building more green or more sustainable than a historic building given new life.”

Piqua, Ohio – population 20,000 – was able to fund the $22 million restoration of their city’s most prized building into a public library. In addition, due to its historic nature and, in turn, the availability of tax incentives, taxpayers needed only fund a fraction of the $22 million project. As it stands, construction of the DML’s proposed new main branch is estimated at $67 million.

Jim Oda, Director of Piqua Public Library, was astounded by the unintended consequences of renovating the Fort Piqua Hotel. “We did not anticipate the community center concept. Fort Piqua became so much more than a public library – it became a tourist center, an art center, a meeting center … a community center. That was a real surprise.”

If the proposed $67 million project goes forward, the Arcade will remain in shambles – a haunting symbol of what Dayton once was. Who knows if it will sit vacant for another twenty-three years? Worse yet, with Dayton’s past as its precedent, would it be destroyed?

The architecturally magnificent 1888 Dayton Library – the site where the Wright Brothers gathered much of their aeronautical data – was torn down and is gone forever. In 1962, the current Dayton Metro Library main branch was built as a “state of the art” facility. Now, a half-a-century later there are plans to tear the main library apart once more for the “library of the 22nd century.” Something is amiss. As the old adage notes, “those who do not learn from their history are doomed to repeat it.”

For a city its size, Dayton’s influence on the world is unparalleled. The Gem City is phenomenal. Yes, we changed the future, but we have far too often neglected our past. We have failed time and again to see the importance of preserving and respecting our ancestry. Under the auspices of “state of the art,” we have traded the beautiful structures of our forbears for transient and spiritless buildings. This mindset is frowned upon in many other areas. Alas, it seems to be encouraged in our region.

In our historically monumental city, we simply cannot afford any more of this nearsighted behavior. If there is a path to preserving our heritage, we should follow it with everything we have. The Dayton City Paper wishes to gain public support in convincing the Dayton Metro Library Board to conduct an up-to-date feasibility study on whether or not the Arcade could house the main branch of the public library. It’s a plea given by Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell, Dayton Mayoral candidate A.J. Wagner and the multitudes that continue to sign our petition on the matter. It’s an extremely simple and reasonable request.

Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at


IMPORTANT:  If you wish for the Library Board of Trustees to consider the  Dayton Arcade as the possible future home of the main branch of the Dayton Metro Library, please speak your mind at the next Dayton Metro Library meeting:

WHAT: DML meeting on new libraries

WHERE: Dayton Metro Library auditorium, 215 E. Third St. 45402

WHEN: Thursday, May 2, 5:30-7 p.m.

WHY: For the love of Dayton



The Dayton City Paper Interview with Gunther Berg

By Paul Noah

What compelled you to first consider visiting Dayton for the purpose of seeing the Dayton Arcade?

I originally visited the Dayton Arcade with the intention of procuring salvage materials. Upon seeing its beauty, I decided it could not be torn down.    – Gunther Berg

Why did you finally buy the Dayton Arcade?

We found that the Dayton Arcade was in danger and that certain people had notions of razing the building to create a downtown parking facility. You cannot miss an opportunity to save a building like the Arcade. You cannot bring back a structure like that once it’s gone. It would be a shame to treat Dayton’s history so poorly. That’s why we stepped in and bought the Dayton Arcade. There was no plan for how we want to develop the Arcade. Our plan and goal were simply to save it from being demolished. So far, we are okay. – GB

As far as we’re aware, over a quarter-million dollars of taxes remain unpaid related to the Arcade building. What is your plan to remedy this? 

We are in touch with the county on a monthly to bi-monthly basis and have made a plan to take care of this. We have made an arrangement and we will follow that arrangement.   -GB

In the past, the necessary technology apparently did not exist to enable a library design for the Arcade. We understand library code standards are different now. How can the Arcade possibly be brought up to these new code standards, in addition to green technology standards, as stipulated by the recent library levy?

With today’s technology, this is irrelevant. It would actually be very easy to adapt to all of today’s standards. -GB

Are there are any other buildings you can point to that have been saved by the Dayton Arcade Development Group (DADG)? 

Sure. Partners of the DADG have helped save the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Freedom Tower in Miami, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Waters [in western Pennsylvania], Alcatraz, Tide Point – today’s headquarters of Under Armour, Durham Tobacco District, the Cleveland Arcade and many, many more. -GB

Can you touch on the importance of historic structures? 

If I go to a library, I want to be inspired. Similar to listening to Mozart in an effort to focus and become inspired, it’s a philosophy that one gets this same type inspiration when seeking knowledge in an historic building. You cannot get this type of inspiration from a new structure. There is no story to it. There is no life in it. It does not capture the spirit of the city’s forefathers. When I see an historic structure, I see the hands that made it. Historic structures have a story to tell and they have inspiration to give. There are many examples of cities using older buildings for their libraries – in Boston, New York and nearby Piqua, for example. It’s very, very inspiring. Currently, the library has $67 million to put into a structure from the 1960s. I believe that hardly anyone would privately put money into a building like that and that says something. -GB

Is it true several years ago you had offered the Dayton Library Board to pay for their study to consider the Dayton Arcade as a viable option and they turned you down?

I was invited by the Board to give them a presentation on the possibilities of putting the library into the Arcade. At that time, I was told that the library could not go into the Arcade because they did not have the money to afford this. They did talk about the possibility of putting it on the levy, but at the time it was too early to do that. -GB

You claim the Arcade cannot be used for low-income housing.  Why not?

There are a lot of grants available to support this, but the rent paid per square foot would make it impossible. We believe if it went this route, it would be the beginning of the end for the Arcade. Our concept is a way to bring the Arcade back to life in a way that it lasts another 100 years. That’s our goal. -GB

What catalytic impact do you believe the new Dayton Arcade Library will have for Downtown Dayton? 

We think the key for helping downtown is to bring the Arcade back as a vibrant place. We cannot and will not use it for retail. That would be the beginning of the end of the Arcade. We also want it to be an active place and not one that is used as offices. We want it to bustle with foot traffic. Offices can be part of the picture, but we do not want them to be the anchor tenants for the Arcade. -GB

Do you believe the board will seriously consider a new Dayton Arcade feasibility study? 

To make this clear, we need a feasibility study. I do know that. This way, five or ten or 20 years later, Dayton is not saying “we made the wrong decision.” I believe the Arcade was overlooked and not properly addressed, and conducting this study is in the best interest of Dayton taxpayers. It could be that I’m wrong, but I think because of the millions and millions of dollars being spent, we have to be sure that we are making the right decision. Let’s not talk about opinions. Let’s make the right decision. Dayton has too much to lose. -GB

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I grew up in Germany and I think of what I can give back to the United States based on my upbringing. There is a proven track record of people from other countries nourishing the United States by bringing positive insights with them from their cultures. For example, Rockefeller and Chrysler are notable Germans that helped change this country for the better. These people took the virtues of their heritage and shared them with the United States. In Germany, I was taught to celebrate old structures and to celebrate our ancestry. We would never have the mind to tear down and build new. Our first consideration is in keeping old buildings and keeping our history alive. We do this out of respect for a city’s forefathers – without whom there would be no city. We feel an obligation to treat our past with great care. There is a saying, “those who do not care about your history, you will not understand your future.” There is so much wonderful history in the United States that needs to be celebrated and preserved. The Dayton Arcade is part of all that. Making it the “New Vibrant Place in Dayton” would ensure its continued place in Dayton history. –GB

Reach DCP Publisher Paul Noah at



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Reach publisher Paul Noah at

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