'Eiffel Tower of Dayton' a step closer to reality

Dayton Business Journal - January 27, 2006 by Caleb hens DBJ Senior Reporter

The Wright Image Group is moving forward with plans to erect a massive replica of the Wright Brothers 1905 Flyer at the intersection of Interstates 70 and 75.

Last month, the local nonprofit secured the necessary land for the sculpture. It received almost an acre from the state of Ohio. The group also has received almost two acres from Singer Properties.

But the next step is the biggest, raising the $5 million to build the mammoth airplane, which will stand 220 feet high, weigh 88,000 pounds and have a 120-foot wingspan.

Walter Hoy, president of Wright Image, said the group has just begun its fundraising initiative. It has collected a few hundred dollars so far but has applied for a $1 million federal grant and is beginning to contact local foundations for money. The group also will sell personalized bricks that will make up part of the sculpture's base to companies or individuals.

Hoy expects the project will be complete in three years. Hoy had hoped to start the project sooner, following the Inventing Flight Celebration in 2003, but the group has been building steam. Wright Image has assembled a powerful board of directors including Montgomery County Commissioner Charles Curran and federal judge Walter Rice.

Hoy, an engineer by trade and owner of skylight maker Dayton-based Fox Lite Inc., already has built a model of the massive sculpture.

"It would become the Eiffel Tower of Dayton," he said.

The Wright replica would be akin to the St. Louis Gateway Arch or Space Needle in Seattle and help Dayton become known as the birthplace of aviation and bolster its name recognition, Hoy said.

The monument is only the first phase, Hoy said. The second phase will be an adjacent visitor reception center -- complete with interactive kiosks -- that will serve as a starting point for tours of Dayton's aviation heritage sights.

Walter Ohlmann, a member of the board and principal with Dayton ad firm Penny Ohlmann Neiman, said it's a question of when, not if, the monument goes up.

"This is something that's going to happen," Ohlmann said.

Cheesecake change of mind?

In December, officials for The Cheesecake Factory said there were no plans to open an eatery in the Dayton area.

Just one month later, however, the Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based restaurant company has filed for a liquor permit for a pending restaurant in The Greene, the new lifestyle center set to open this August in Beavercreek.

"Plans have changed ... there's interest," said Howard Gordon, senior vice president of business development and marketing for restaurant company. But he said no lease has been signed so he could not elaborate further.

The Cheesecake Factory operates 92 locations nationwide, including spots in Cincinnati and The Easton Town Center in Columbus. Each restaurant averages $11 million in annual sales.

In addition to Cheesecake Factory, Columbus-based Brio Tuscan Grille, the upscale version of Bravo! Cucina, filed for a liquor permit last week at The Greene.

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