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A transformative and inclusive housing development soon will break ground in Northwest Dayton, thanks to the forward-thinking efforts of United Church Homes, a leading provider of services and affordable housing for older adults. Anchored by the historic Longfellow building, a Salem Avenue landmark that served as a longtime school and headquarters for the American Red Cross during the 1913 flood, The Longfellow Commons Community aims to create a safe and welcoming living space for LGBTQ+ older adults and allies.
The Longfellow Commons Community will provide residential living, while helping to revitalize the area and focus on diversity and inclusion.
“The Grafton Hill and Lower Dayton View historic districts are home to some of Dayton’s most precious community assets, including the Dayton Masonic Center and the Dayton Art Institute. Longfellow is an iconic building that complements the other neighborhood anchors in history and design,” said Gloria Hurwitz, vice president of advancement for UCH. “Longfellow’s revitalized campus embraces its historic bones and brings new life to the neighborhood and to Greater Dayton.”
The Longfellow Commons Community will include 125 market-rate units with a potential to house 200 older adults and their pets. Blighted parcels have been removed from the area to make way for a lighted and beautifully landscaped urban campus, which will feature a bodega, library, theater and hair and nail salon. A clinic with pharmacy services also is planned, giving convenient access to healthcare to The Longfellow Commons Community residents and the 1,000 older adults already living in the area.
…while going through the vulnerable stages of aging, I most want to be safe and respected. I want that for all LGBTQ+ older adults.
– Reverend Timothy Forbess
Beyond the amenities, the Community will create a space for Greater Dayton LGBTQ+ older adults to feel valued, welcomed and supported. Residents will have opportunities for more abundant living experiences in a place where they can be assured safety and acceptance. This is particularly important for LGBTQ+ older adults, who are twice as likely to face housing discrimination and other significant challenges, such as loneliness and isolation.
“Some in the LGBTQ+ community may have a lack of family to call on while aging, most likely because of the high percentage of individuals who do not have children,” Gloria said. “UCH, comprehending this need, has designed The Longfellow Commons Community to be intentionally welcoming and caring for those in the LGBTQ+ framework. This will nurture an environment for residents to explore their varied talents, hobbies and volunteer interests that enhances not only the campus, but the surrounding community as well.”
Among the amenities offered on The Longfellow Commons Community’s three-acre campus is a library and reading room.
In addition to a $75,000 discretionary grant awarded to the project in 2023, The Dayton Foundation extended a 12-month, $250,000, zero-percent loan to UCH in 2020, with the help of several Dayton Foundation fund holders. The loan, which was paid back early in full, helped the organization meet parameters to secure more than $1 million in state historic tax credits. This allowed UCH to move ahead with architectural and engineering work in order to meet construction timelines.
“The grant comes at a time when additional capital is needed. The project cost increased by 25 percent and has required fundraising in and beyond the Miami Valley,” Gloria said. “The support from The Dayton Foundation and its fund holders has moved us toward closing the gap.”
Longfellow’s revitalized campus embraces its historic bones and brings new life to the neighborhood and to Greater Dayton.
– Gloria Hurwitz, vice president of advancement for United Church Homes
The Longfellow Commons Community is projected to be one of the largest LGBTQ+ senior living communities in the nation, similar in size to campuses in Palm Springs and New York City. The first phase will be complete in late 2024, with the second phase, including a four-story apartment building, completed in 2026.
“This will be my new home,” said Reverend Timothy Forbess, an early partner in developing the project who came to Dayton 35 years ago to attend seminary. “Many of us remember the Stonewall riots, friends lost to the ravages of HIV/AIDS, Matthew Shepherd’s murder, marriage equality debates, being bullied on playgrounds and at workplaces, etc. But some may not know that more than 48 percent of our transgender seniors have suffered physical assault.
“We have a common set of experiences and stories that are all different – and similar,” he continued. “All this to say, while going through the vulnerable stages of aging, I most want to be safe and respected. I want that for all LGBTQ+ older adults.”