South Park as the Catalyst for a Greater Dayton?

by David Esrati on February 24, 2011

in Dayton Government, Historic South Park

It’s nice to see a good news piece about our neighborhood , Historic South Park, as the cover story of the Dayton City Paper. Despite what you may think about this neighborhood from reading the uncensored stories here- of my recent break-ins (which can almost all be connected directly with just a few bad actors).

The piece is written by one of our own- it’s PR for sure- but, it has the facts straight, unlike what you’d read in the Dayton Daily.

I particularly liked this quote- which if extrapolated- is also the answer for Dayton- greater Dayton, not just the city of…

While the physical layout of South Park contributes to its neighborliness, and an active neighborhood association aids its development, no single entity is strong enough to lift up a community on its own, according to urban historian Alexander von Hoffman. “For successful and sustained renewal, communities need a cadre of leaders who can change the perceptions and actual conditions that affect the reputation of their neighborhood,” von Hoffman said. “Leaders must coordinate the actions of its residents and create innovative alliances between local government, private investors, realtors, individuals, non-profit groups and law enforcement.”

via Building a better South Park : Dayton City Paper.

Note the part about “changing perceptions and actual conditions that affect the reputation”- it’s what’s missing in Dayton. We don’t have the vision- coming from a cadre of leaders- in fact, one would question if we’ve elected leaders at all in Dayton- we seem to have mouthpieces committed to the status quo. Find an elected leader having a conversation about change online- in public- or even mentioning things we could do.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of people to form the core cadre- but what it does take is a concerted effort to show a vision of where we could be- and how we’ll get there.

We’ve got too much dead weight in elected positions throughout “greater Dayton”- with all of our fiefdoms- it dilutes the strength of leadership and lends itself to largess and laziness.

But, back to the South Park article- we’ve seen a huge shift from around 70% rental properties to 70% resident-owned properties in the last 25 years I’ve been here. Because of a shared vision- we’ve seen neighbor after neighbor not only take care of their own houses- but, invest in others. The confidence in our shared vision has made the neighborhood vital and confident investment has followed.

Because I’m running for office- I’ll also point out, that I served as President for 2 years- and cultivated a successor- who was then followed by Karin Manovich. I took over a neighborhood that had been divided by the previous president- who liked to foster a class divide- I brought the neighborhood back together, mended fences and brought structure and order to meetings that had been running many hours- and got them under control. I was also the innovator who suggested the for-profit development corporation- South Park Social Capital, which was instrumental in transforming Skinner;s bar- a trouble spot, into the South Park Tavern.

None of the South Park miracle would have been possible without some of the things that I believe have been key to our success:

  • Definite boundaries with good natural divisions.
  • Historic zoning which has helped standardize expectations for repairs- and differentiated the neighborhood from others.
  • An amazing variety of housing stock, with something for everyone.
  • The central location with excellent highway access.
  • Good corporate neighbors- UD, MVH, NCR
  • A wide cross section of people in the community, from diverse professions, backgrounds and socio-economic diversity.
  • And most importantly the investment of MVH in supplying Community Based Police officers over the last 15 years. Without improved perception of law enforcement- none of this would have been possible.

There is one thing I’ve learned in the 25 years of being part of this organized community- is that we can’t take our eye off the ball. We have to keep our citizens engaged and working together. I’ve seen blocks rise and fall and rise back up again- all based on the people who are living there. I’ve seen houses rehabbed- sell high- and then fall into disrepair only to be picked back up. There is no finish line in this competition for a quality neighborhood- only a journey that can be progressively more enjoyable if the community chooses to work together.

If there has been one factor that has slowed us down more than anything- it has been the loss of so many young families over the years who leave as their kids hit school age. If we don’t have confidence in our community schools, it severely hurts our community. I’ve been trying to work with Dayton School Superintendent Lori Ward to find ways to reconnect neighborhood kids who could be attending as many as 30 different schools- hopefully, soon, we’ll have an initiative in place to solve this major problem and start keeping our best social capital in our community- in our community.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Donald Phillips February 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm

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jdub February 24, 2011 at 4:16 pm

Good article except NCR is no longer here.  I would suspect they left for the same reasons good families leave when their kids reach school age– better opportunities and more incentives. 

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Bill Daniels (pizzabill) February 25, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Donald,
I don’t know if you were there at any of the neighborhood meetings, the alley clean-up Saturdays, the Porch Patio and Deck parties (where neighbors open up their home other neighbors to share the hard work and renovation efforts they have put into their homes), the Saturdays at Emerson school with the AIA group sharing ideas about how to make the neighborhood a better place, the 7000 hours with 250 or so volunteers working on Rehabarama with no public money, the Christmas Tours where neighbors open their home to the city, or the night when, after years of real commitment (like fixing up an old house, choosing to raise your family in an area with many more problems that the suburbs, etc. etc,), a couple of neighbors walked into a neighborhood meeting– straight from the airport– with a national award for neighborhood improvement.  It was a great, validating night.  But the best part was the next day, when the trophy went up on a shelf somewhere, and everyone went back to work trying to continue weaving the fabric of community that makes any neighborhood strong.
I don’t know if you live or work in South Park, but my experience the past 15 years or so has been nothing like the Moaist-style psyhco-babble your talking about.  Oh sure, there have been frustrating moments, but I honestly can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the experience of having and working almost everyday in a business within what I feel is a true neighborhood.  What’s going on is simply more and more people recognizing that this is a nice place to live or work.  That’s it.

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Jeff Dziwulski March 2, 2011 at 11:39 am

Well, I did my little bit by blogging on the place and posting on it at Urban Ohio.  Kevin Moran was quoted in the artcile and he’s been a great supporter of SP (and a resident), who sort of inspired me do some historical investigations of the place.  

I also was familiar with the place via an aquaintance who used to work for MVH and was active in the South Park Preservation Works (not sure how, exactley) so early on I saw it as an interesting place. 

Some of the history in the Dayton City Paper article is a bit off, though.  No biggy, but the place is a bit older in parts than the 1880s.  The first plats date to before the Civil War, and the some of the earlier houses go back to 1869 or earlier.  More on the eastern side of the neighborhood.

But yeah, good post, and very good comments on definable borders and a good location helping make the place viable as a gentrification/restoration area.

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Jeff Dziwulski March 2, 2011 at 11:42 am

Correction…the older housing stock is more on the western & northern side .  The eastern side (with some exceptions, like Park Drive and Clover Street) was first platted in the 1870s,

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Donald Phillips March 2, 2011 at 1:05 pm

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David Esrati March 2, 2011 at 1:45 pm

@Jeff D- any chance of supplying a link to your UrbanOhio post?

Thanks

As to Donald Phillips- he’s a misanthrope without a life. Please thumbs down him and move on.

I’ve warned him repeatedly about name calling on this site.

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