Bob Shiffler spoke at the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce breakfast briefing today about his ideas and plans for the Arcade. What he’s done at the Kuhn’s building at 4th and Main has been absolute alchemy. It serves as a shining example of what happens when someone with a vision doesn’t let the glare of the status quo blind him from accomplishing something amazing in Dayton.
The thing that made me grin, was he started suggesting some simple solutions to change perception and add vibrancy to Downtown. His first was murals- he showed some supersized art and ads. Sorry, Bob, not in Dayton- or even Ohio. We don’t believe ads can be good. See this post about the Lebron James monster ad in Cleveland .
We took the ads off the RTA buses – even though they generated money.
He talked about Urban Nights being a great thing- but twice a year isn’t enough.
He showed how store windows can be art, how public art can create interest, how parking issues need to be solved. He even mentioned the “Dead Grandpa” syndrome- where we feel lost without the captains of industry solving our problems for us (often times in back rooms).
And then he got to his plans for the arcade and tying it together with the old Dayton Daily News building and the Schwind/Moraine Apartments. Great.
After he was done, I stood up and gave my nickels worth: parking could double with end in parking, we passed laws making motorcycles park 1 per car space – chasing the bikers off to Fairborn, that it’s our conventional thinking and our unwillingness to accept strong individuals (unless they are loaded like Bob) and their “radical ideas.”
I mentioned how we refuse to accept new ideas, new people- unless you have a herd on your side. How deals are still being done in back rooms (something he didn’t agree with me on- I say, go read what the Dayton Development Coalition  has been up to).
It’s not the buildings, it’s the people and our inability to think our way through the problems.
I’ve been wrestling with this for over 20 years now, and I still feel like I’m getting a flat spot on my head from banging it against the walls we insist on building for no apparent reason.
Of course, I said something that rubbed some the wrong way: mentioning how many of the men in the room were still wearing white shirts and dark suits. It got a chuckle, but brought comments about my rough edges.
Sorry folks, at some point you have to stop valuing style over substance. If we don’t, we’ll never get to the big ideas.