Dayton’s First Modern Skyscraper Adapted for New Use: Housing 

The Grant Deneau

A Vacancy Adapts to a Need 

According to Moody’s Analytics, about 20% (19.6) of office spaces in major US cities are vacant. Dayton has an even higher rate, with 28% of its office buildings vacant. There is also a lack of available housing in Dayton. With so many vacant office buildings, and a need for housing, developers see potential in converting offices into apartments through a strategy known as adaptive reuse. Adaptive reuse is the process of taking a building that was used to serve one purpose and transforming it to perform another purpose.  

In Dayton, The Windsor Companies is a development firm that has used this approach throughout the metro area. Their latest project is The Grant Deneau Tower, a 22-story mid-century modern office building which is being transformed into luxury apartments and some retail space.  

The Challenge of Adaptation 

Transforming an office building into apartments is complicated. “Where does all the plumbing go, where does everything run. Your electrical—HVAC—these are all things that I thought were the most daunting,” said Jason Dorsey, Executive Vice President of Asset Management at The Windsor Companies.  

Dorsey also shared that about 20% of the building is funded through the state subsidy known as historical tax credits. In 2016 The Grant Deneau Tower was listed on the National Register of Historic Places which meant it qualified for the subsidy but with that funding came restriction. “When you have historical tax credits you have historical guidelines,” said Dorsey. There were certain elements that couldn’t be altered, such as the curtain wall. The curtain wall is an exterior covering – or facade – of a building used to protect the interior wall from the elements, and to present and create a pleasant look; it is not meant to support the building’s structure. 

Alex Manno, Director of Construction at The Windsor Companies said, “It would’ve been  easier—it wouldn’t have been cheaper— but it would’ve been easier to just take the old one down and put a new one up.”  

Manno changed the existing window glass into vacuum insulating glass and installed a variable refrigerant flow system (VRF). This system circulates only the minimum amount of refrigerant needed during a single heating or cooling period. This allows for users to individually control several air conditioning zones at one time therefore making The Grant Deneau cost efficient. 

The Freedom of Vertical Integration 

The Windsor Companies can be efficient with their projects because they are vertically integrated. That means they own their own suppliers and are not beholden to subcontractors, which allows them to maintain their timeline.  

“Vertical integration allows for two things: control and speed. So, we control the labor completely because we have in-house plumbers, HVAC guys…all of the labor is in-house. So that eliminates two big hurdles for us. And it starts from the procurement side all the way through to completion, “said Manno.  

One example of this vertical efficiency can be seen with an interior design component of the Grant Deneau: mullion covers. Mullion covers are the vertical bars in between glass windowpanes. The mullion covers for this project would have to be custom-made. The Windsor Companies’ solution: 3-D printing their own mullion covers.  

“It’s a very high-end look” 

Alexius J. Dorsey is the brother of Jason Dorsey and the Founder and Chief Executive Officer. Jason Dorsey said, “My brother said make it look like something that nobody has ever seen before in Dayton, and I think that’s what we did….It’s a high-end look.” The goal is to make a state-of-the-art residential space in Dayton.  

Jason Dorsey even stressed the privacy and safety features the building will have. Each unit will be accompanied by sound deadening material. “You’ll essentially have a barrier between your neighbors…it’s going to be silent.” Dorsey continued, “You get the sense of safety in here. Being in here is like a vault. There are only a couple of ways in the building and that’s it. And they are secured and there are going to be people working here all the time….” 

The Grant Deneau is expected to add to the number of residents moving to downtown Dayton. This is something the cofounder of the 6888 Kitchen Incubator, Charlynda Scales, says will help the economy in the metro area. “If you have residential areas going all around the Dayton Arcade, it begs the question where do they eat? You can shop from these entrepreneurs, and it also helps them grow their business.” said Scales. 

Vertical Integration + Affordable Housing 

The Grant Deneau, which will change its name to The Deneau, will be complete by the first quarter of 2025 but the first residents are expected to move in spring of 2024. 

 Based on the Windsor Companies’ approach, vertically integrated companies are well equipped to handle the challenges that may come with adaptatively reusing a building. But not every company can do that, so their process isn’t easily replicable.  

The Windsor Companies may expand their development beyond luxury apartments to affordable apartments as well. “We think that may be the next step for us. Affordable housing and adaptive reuse. These big, tall buildings are safe, we make them efficient. We think that there is a great need for it,” said Dorsey  

Hernz Laguerre Jr. – Multi-Media Journalist

Hernz is a Haitian American who was born and raised in Spring Valley, NY. He attended school at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, where he learned to hone his skills as a storyteller. After graduating with his Bachelors in Broadcast and Digital Journalism and his Masters in Television Radio and Film, he went on to a career in media as a producer, reporter and freelance videographer for companies like ESPN and Court TV. He eventually moved to Detroit, where he worked as a Multimedia Journalist for The Detroit News and then the NPR affiliate, WDET, before starting his work with the Brick by Brick team at CET and ThinkTV. Hernz aims to produce stories that tell the bigger picture while doing his due diligence to educate and inform the public about the solutions-focused work being done in the Cincinnati and Dayton areas.