TROTWOOD, Ohio (WDTN) – An open house was held Saturday in Trotwood to collect community input on a project to transform part of the Salem Mall site into a community center.

Sitting vacant for around eight years, the former Sears building at the Salem Mall could soon get new life through a project planned by the Trotwood Community Improvement Corporation (TCIC) and University of Dayton students.

“We needed this to be something that’s impactful, and brings amenities and resources to the community that otherwise aren’t here,” TCIC Executive Director Chad Downing said.

The TCIC received $2 million in Congressional Appropriations Funding to redevelop the site.

TCIC is working alongside a group of University of Dayton mechanical engineering students. These students drafted up four layouts for the former Sears Auto Center based on input they’ve received from residents in the fall.

“It was really fantastic getting to talk to the people we’re making this for with them in mind, and seeing that it’s inspiring them, and we don’t want to let them down by keeping the momentum going because it’s really important to the community to have a space like this,” UD senior Ally Brown said.

The primary focus of the community center is to address food access, the plans include a marketplace, a grocery store, a teaching kitchen and community space for events

“This is in a food desert here in Trotwood and Dayton, so really incorporating that fresh produce, as well as a teaching kitchen, so having opportunities to teach people how to cook the nutritious food,” Brown said.

All of the input collected will then be used to make final decisions about the project.

“As far as how do we design this, how do we continue to bring the community as a strong element of this redevelopment focus,” Downing said.

Plans for the community center are just part of a larger vision. The TCIC bought the entire property in 2019 and wants to include support for small businesses and workforce development within the former department store.