Dayton gets national press for wrong thing (again)

Over 20 years ago I was sitting on a dive boat with some people from NYC. I was telling them about my house I bought for $14,500-

“$14,500? That’s what I pay a year for my parking spot” said one.

“Did it come on a trailer” asked another.

I went on to describe my 2-story, 1,700 sq ft, frame Victorian half-cross, with a 2-car garage and a parking pad- and a fenced yard.”

You could almost see the steam rising out of their ears as the gears computed what they were getting in NYC- for a hell of a lot more.

But, it’s Dayton Ohio- was their final verdict- not knowing anything about Dayton- other than maybe they’d done business with NCR, Reynolds and Reynolds, GM, Mead or fed their dog Iams. They might know about WPAFB- but have no clue about our bountiful water supply, our amazing 5 Rivers Metroparks, top notch schools like Oakwood HS or Stivers. Or our orchestra, ballet or DCDC (that sells out in NYC all the time).

So, when they read about Dayton in today’s New York Times- they’ll still think we’re a broken down shanty town, falling apart as we try to save ourselves a $2 million lawn care bill- clearing the empty lots as the last few souls leave town.

Around the nation, cities and towns facing grim budget circumstances are grasping at unlikely — some would say desperate — means to bolster their shrunken tax bases. Like Beatrice, places like Dayton, Ohio, and Grafton, Ill., are giving away land for nominal fees or for nothing in the hope that it will boost the tax rolls and cut the lawn-mowing bills.

via Homesteads and Other Sources of Tax Income – NYTimes.com.

Of course, we’re also still on a tear down kick- taking down homes as fast as possible, to make sure that suburban home builders and demolition companies that back our local politicians keep busy.

Instead- we could be offering homes to homesteaders- with a $5K signing bonus. Move into these homes that we’re seeing as nuisances, start rehabbing them- live in them for 2 years- and they are yours. We’ll even give you a $5k credit at the Deconstruction Depot for building materials.

We have things people want- we’re just doing a horrible job letting people know that Dayton is a place of opportunity- a great place to raise a family- and an affordable place to live.

Thanks to our short-sighted local leadership the wrong message gets into the New York Times. Time to fix it.

And, all of you people in New York- for what you pay for a parking space- you can still buy a home in Dayton- and have money left over for a car to park in it.

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13 Responses

  1. Teri Lussier July 26, 2010 / 9:21 am
    Instead- we could be offering homes to homesteaders- with a $5K signing bonus. Move into these homes that we’re seeing as nuisances, start rehabbing them- live in them for 2 years- and they are yours. We’ll even give you a $5k credit at the Deconstruction Depot for building materials.

     
    An intriguing idea that makes sense for a variety of reasons, if we can work it out without burdening current citizens any more than they are and without creating more bureaucratic nonsense.  I’m not sure if that’s possible, but I’d love to see the details.
     
     

  2. jstults July 26, 2010 / 10:37 am
    Brookings says we’re not so bad:

    The Dayton metro area, which is the 61st largest metro, ranked 56th in export revenue. More than 44,100 jobs were supported by exports in Dayton. The local area has nine export industry clusters including; transportation equipment manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, business, professional and technical services, computer and electronic product manufacturing and royalties from intellectual property.
    Exports represented 13.8 percent of Dayton’s total economy in 2008. Recent local export growth has been slow, according to the report, expanding at 3.6 percent.
    Report: Dayton exports hit $4.7 billion – Dayton Business Journal

    Their policy proscription includes more trade liberalization though (which you seem to be against in this post).
     
    I really like the your Homesteading the Deconstruction Frontier idea; strikes me as the seed for something really interesting.

  3. Donald Phillips July 26, 2010 / 11:44 am
    But seriously. During the twenty years I have lived in New York City (well, actually Brooklyn)  I have have never received a negative response from revealing my origin in Dayton–well, actually Kettering. The recipients don’t know much about Dayton beyond the Wright Brothers or  Guided by Voices, but they don’t trash it. And I’ve never said a foul word about Dayton to them!

  4. Thomas July 26, 2010 / 3:40 pm
    Dayton USED to have a program as you have described. You had to live on the property for no less than 5 years, making appropriate improvements (and proving you did so), and the property would be yours at the end of the time to do with as you saw fit. A fair amount of old homes in Dayton were renovated this way. It’s what we wanted to do upon returning to Dayton – but apparently the program no longer exists as no one seems to know why. My guess would be the over-inflated value people seem to want to place on properties here in Dayton.
    Additionally, a pretty fair amount of abandoned properties in Dayton are now bank-owned, and the banks have no intention of losing their alleged “investments.” No matter that said properties complete lack of care continue to devaluate not only the individual properties, but those properties around them.  No matter than even interested parties who would purchase said homes are not able to because it is practically impossible to track down an “owner” or party interested in getting the property sold.
    Think I am joking? I am not. Repeatedly, friends of mine interested in purchasing vacant properties in Dayton have met brick walls in their attempts to find someone to purchase said property from. Eventually, they have given up, and gone somewhere else. All the while, Dayton continues to decline. Then just try to lease a property to open a business here — HA!!
    We have talked about this, David. My position has not had any reason to change… My disappointment continues, unabated. Honestly, sometimes I can’t figure out why an intelligent, talented guy like yourself (with a lovely young lady such as you have) insists on staying here.
     
  5. Jeff of Louisville July 26, 2010 / 4:10 pm
    Sounds like that dollar house program from back in the 1980s, I think.

    Of course, we’re also still on a tear down kick- taking down homes as fast as possible, to make sure that suburban home builders and demolition companies that back our local politicians keep busy.

    I wonder if people are thinking about doing urban agriculture here on the vacant lands like they are in doing Cleveland and Detroit.   It seems this fad hasn’t caught on here.  Maybe not enough is vacant to make it feasible yet.  But I think ‘they’ (the city? neighborhood groups? nonprofits?) are not looking at this approach since the concept appears to be to reconstruct, not go green/urban ag.

    I note that driving around town that though they are tearing down things they are also putting new houses in place, too.  This is more visible on the West Side, Lower Dayton View, and that area south of Good Sam between Hillcrest and Salem.  I’ve also seen this in the area between Findlay and Linden, east of the Huffman historic district, and starting to see it in Twin Towers (drive down Steele between Wyoming and Xenia).

     It seems that as places turn into slums or incipient slums the city comes in to demolish stuff, but also that occasionally new stuff replaces the tear-downs.

  6. Jeff of Louisville July 26, 2010 / 4:19 pm
    And, all of you people in New York- for what you pay for a parking space- you can still buy a home in Dayton- and have money left over for a car to park in it.

    New Yorkers, a few, are relocating to Buffalo.  There’s this Rust Belt Chic thing going on in the Great Lakes area, not so much here.  I think Dayton doesnt quite have that grit.

    From Burgh Diaspora/Urbanophile:

    http://burghdiaspora.blogspot.com/2010/06/rust-belt-chic-freegans-ho.html

    (Via Urbanophile Twitter) Buffalo is the latest in a long line of American utopian geographies for disaffected youth (e.g. Slackers):

    The mansion is situated near the Niagara River, whose shores are lined with old warehouses and factories. This part of Buffalo was once home to working-class Italian-Americans, who worked in small factories, on the docks and in railroad yards. The homes, with notable exceptions, tend to be modest. In recent years, there has been an influx of new immigrants from Burma, Somalia and Sudan. Like the freegans, many of these immigrants came to take advantage of the city’s overlooked housing stock, though they acquired their homes in the more traditional way.

    Anthony Bourdain expounds on the concept:

    I think that troubled cities often tragically misinterpret what’s coolest about themselves. They scramble for cure-alls, something that will “attract business”, always one convention center, one pedestrian mall or restaurant district away from revival. They miss their biggest, best and probably most marketable asset: their unique and slightly off-center character. Few people go to New Orleans because it’s a “normal” city — or a “perfect” or “safe” one. They go because it’s crazy, borderline dysfunctional, permissive, shabby, alcoholic and bat shit crazy — and because it looks like nowhere else. Cleveland is one of my favorite cities. I don’t arrive there with a smile on my face every time because of the Cleveland Philarmonic.

    Drexel Dave was the one guy here in Dayton who was “getting it'” re this, via his urban briar riff on the theme. 

  7. jstults July 26, 2010 / 4:29 pm
    Jeff of Louisville:

    But I think ‘they’ (the city? neighborhood groups? nonprofits?) are not looking at this approach since the concept appears to be to reconstruct, not go green/urban ag.
    […]
    It seems that as places turn into slums or incipient slums the city comes in to demolish stuff, but also that occasionally new stuff replaces the tear-downs.

    I think those two are connected, we get the behavior the system encourages.  It could be that lots of the money used to subsidize the demolition and replacement construction comes with strings attached as far as supporting affordable housing rather than, say, urban agriculture.

  8. Jeff of Louisville July 26, 2010 / 4:29 pm
    From the D B-J:

    metros should innovate to increase their export capacities

     Dayton ranks pretty low on innovation based on the metric used by Brookings, which is sort of funny since they the locals tout that  this place is about innovation and invention.   The study does say that the largest industry cluster (they are using the NAICS sector categories)  for export is the ‘Transportation Equipment’ (ie Auto Industry) at around 20% to 25% .  This is the sector that has seen major drops in employment. 

    But even in 2008, after losing 52% to 58% of jobs since 1998, it’s still at around a quarter.  

     It takes a lot to kill manufacturing in a place so vested in it.  Though Brookings is also saying we are exporting services (I am guessing professional/engineering/scienific service) and the rate of growth in this cluster is pretty high.

    But the big growth is in defense, too.  Take a look at the map at this WaPo article on “Top Secret America”….Dayton stands out:

    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/map/

  9. Drexel Dave Sparks July 26, 2010 / 5:39 pm
    @ Jeff from Louisville: I am wondering when the Dayton Development Coalition or any of the arts organizations will come calling to hire me as a consultant, but I figure I’ll have to wait until I’m dead before I get a say.
  10. Jeff Dziwulski July 26, 2010 / 8:28 pm
    Jeff from Louisville: I am wondering when the Dayton Development Coalition or any of the arts organizations will come calling to hire me as a consultant, but I figure I’ll have to wait until I’m dead before I get a say.

    One of these days you and I need to have a face to face over a few beers, coffee, whatever….
  11. jstults July 29, 2010 / 7:33 pm
    I like this maker’s take on things in Detroit:

    Like any major city, Detroit has its share of problems, but it is absurd to accept that we can be defined by mayoral scandals, grand abandoned structures, or lack of an appropriate public transit system. Countless initiatives to better our city are happening beneath the surface, but seldom do major media outlets seek out the positive stories, instead favoring fodder for late-night talk show jabs.
    Detroit does not need a “savior” — whether it be a casino, government entity, or another massive corporation to take over and dole out short-lived handouts.
    Detroit will re-invent itself and prosper through the help of makers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs who thrive while operating on a lean budget, without the bloat that has caused the demise of many of our once-venerated large corporations. True, lasting change cannot happen overnight, but with a little patience, room to operate, and a lot of sweat, we can entice both our young people to stay in the area and help in this reinvention while enticing other artists and makers — who may be claustrophobic operating in other cities — to stretch out and make Detroit their home.
    Detroit is the freedom to make things…

  12. Jeff of Louisville July 31, 2010 / 11:22 am
    Detroit is happening.  I got to see some of this when I was up there for the US Social Forum .  The forum dedicated a day to Detroit activism and grass roots DIY things (a day missed, ufortunatley).

    http://www.ussf2010.org/

    A good example of what’s happening in Detroit at this local DIY/small time operator  level is the Woodbridge Pub.  The business itself and what its doing, but also that they source locally, from urban ag in Detroit (another local DIY thing) and regional microbrewreys.

    http://www.myspace.com/woodbridgepub

    Another is this local handmade gift shop nearby in the Cass Corridor area right north of downtown Detroit; City Bird :

    http://ilovecitybird.com/

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