Dr. Schuster should stick to medicine

What are downtown Dayton’s problems? Who will step up to solve them?
What are downtown Dayton’s problems? Who will step up to solve them?

Today’s Dayton Daily News has an interview of Dr. Benjamin Schuster by Jeff Bruce about state and future of Downtown.
Dr. Schuster has three ideas of what needs to be done:

  1. Tear down buildings and make more parking.
  2. Regional government.
  3. Hide the homeless.

With ideas like that- he should try running for the presidency- if morons in leadership positions are still in vogue, this doctor is prepared to be a giant.
Schuster was a patsy for the powers of Second and Main to “solve” their “problem” of an impressive collection of prime buildings for an urban conversion- the Lazarus building. Mead, Danis and Virginia Kettering needed another “Class A” building on the corner to solidify their holdings. They found their savior in an old man who had 8 million lying around- and liked a good seat for the symphony.
Don’t get me wrong- Dr. Schuster’s donation to the city was a grand gesture, however, the Schuster Center could have been placed in two locations that would have had greater economic development impact- to the North of Fifth street at Main.
The logic for the different location? By adding the halls of Schuster to the Convention Center, and being close to our zoning challenged Oregon District entertainment hub- we could have built a solid core of evening destination locations and been better poised to host large conventions. When combined with the existing Transportation center garage- the Crowne Plaza, the neon, we could have had the start of our own Times square like corridor from Main to Wayne on Fifth- if we had built the ball field at Fifth and Wayne – it would have been a year round powerhouse.
To top it all off – we would have been ADDING to downtown, instead of REPLACING.
The Lazarus building was an OPPORTUNITY for loft housing, it HAD a PARKING GARAGE it HAD ground level RETAIL space- and it had the historic character that “The Greene” will never match.
Tearing down buildings isn’t an answer. It wasn’t in the Sixties either. The buildings that the Convention Center replaced could have been concert halls- jazz clubs- dinner theaters- instead we have an impersonal windowless building which encourages people NOT to walk on the sidewalk- but instead to park and hide from Downtown in a skywalk.
Schuster does get that we need regionalism- but then he keeps talking about the Downtown Dayton Partnership and the Chamber of Commerce- two more independent fiefdoms in the milieu of minions “stewarding” our future. What we truly need is leaders who are willing to stop kowtowing to the loudest screamers – and that understand that to get more power as a region- we have to give up some.
I find Dr. Schusters comments about “screening” the homeless offensive. His eight million could have made a huge impact providing solutions for the homeless- a low-interest home loan program to help people not get their homes taken by predatory lenders, credit counseling, training programs, etc. Here is his quote in it’s entirety:

Absolutely. I’ll give you another example. We’re trying to entice businesses to come downtown. Every day when I drive to Kettering Hospital, I drive along Patterson Boulevard and I look at the homeless people. My heart goes out to them. I really feel for them, but what gets me is they’re lying on the streets, they’re lying against the building, they’re in groups, and we don’t even have proper screening, we don’t have any trees or bushes which can shield these people from people driving downtown, because they get the wrong perception of what the city is really like. As you get closer and closer to downtown, the picture gets a little worse in my opinion.

I’m sure he can still afford some trees and bushes if he really thinks this is the answer.
He must not vary his route in and out of Downtown either- since he says “There isn’t very much in the way of decent restaurants downtown.” I’ll be glad to take him to Coco’s, Blue Moon, Thai 9, Pacchia Prima, Café Boulevard, Thai 9, Jays, Benhams, Therapy Café, The Dublin Pub, Franco’s, Brixx Ice House, Yummy Burger, The Flying Pizza, The Pine Club, Old Hickory, Dominics, Tanks, or maybe it’s just his palette in food matches his ideas in renewal- only faux food out of plastic packages like “The Cheesecake Factory” and TGI Fridays count? (And I apologize to any independent restaurant I left out of my short list)- oh yeah, in case Dr. Schuster is afraid to go out amongst the homeless people- he can always have Dayton’s Original Pizza Factory deliver one of the amazing gourmet pizza’s- since he is in the delivery area- I highly recommend the Reuben, Chicken Cordon Bleu and the Pesto Pizzaz for starters.

If he wants to see more restaurants pop-up overnight here is the answer:

  • Eliminate the cap on liquor licenses in the Oregon District
  • Eliminate the zoning requirements for parking spaces within x distance of buildings in the district
  • Ease building codes to facilitate re-use of historic spaces (only require 1 handicapped bathroom instead of 2 for small spaces, allow less expensive sprinkler systems etc)
  • Build the Schuster parking garage just West of Gem City Records and North of Jays- with ground level retail, restaurants and dance clubs facing the rail tracks, and luxury housing on top.
  • Endorse the light rail system for car-less people moving around the core attractions downtown.

If Dr. Schuster wants to learn about solutions to Downtown’s “problems” (instead of being one of them) he should consider joining Grassroots Greater Dayton– a progressive think tank looking at innovative solutions to stop sprawl and create smart growth strategies. He might also try sitting down with some people who could “school” him on how we make all this work.
Tearing down downtown, either with words or wrecking balls isn’t part of the solution Sir Schuster.

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