DAYTON — The National Aviation Heritage Alliance will commission a feasibility study to evaluate the potential for a national fundraising campaign for the Wright Company factory site, NAHA officials announced Thursday, Feb. 13.
The goal of the fundraising campaign would be to secure the historic Wright Company buildings for future use as a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and identify compatible uses for the surrounding 20-acre historic parcel, which includes three attached structures that match the architectural style of the original Wright buildings.
The feasibility study is a part of a new, five-year strategic plan NAHA’s board of trustees approved at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 11.
“The new strategic plan restates the commitment of our heritage partners to work together to preserve and promote our individual sites as well as the national treasures in the Heritage Area overall,” said Frank Winslow, chair of NAHA’s board of trustees.
NAHA envisions a range of potential uses for the historic parcel that would be compatible with the Wright buildings as a national park unit. Some examples are science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education programs, aviation education and training, aerospace research and possibly light aircraft or high-tech aerospace manufacturing.
In addition to the historic parcel, the study will evaluate the feasibility of acquiring the remaining 34 acres that make up the former Delphi Home Avenue automotive plant for commercial or industrial development.
“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.
Wilbur and Orville Wright formed the Wright Company in November 1909. The Wright Company built the two single-story, brick factory buildings in 1910 and 1911 to produce airplanes for military, commercial and private use. The National Park Service has identified the buildings as the first structures in America built for the purpose of producing aircraft. Restored as a national park unit open to the public, the factory would complete the story of the Wright brothers’ invention, development and commercialization of the airplane in and around Dayton.
Besides its history, the site is attractive because it has good highway and rail access, Sculimbrene said. Located about two miles east of downtown Dayton and eight miles west of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the site has an active railroad line and it borders U.S. 35, which connects to Interstate 75.
Demolition of the old Delphi manufacturing buildings has progressed rapidly over the past year, and the site’s owner, Home Avenue Redevelopment LLC, expects demolition to be complete by the end of June, around the time the feasibility study will be complete. Home Avenue’s parent company, brownfields redeveloper Hull & Associates Inc., 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.