Esrati now a “downtown promoter” according to DDN

I warned you in a previous post that I would be quoted- here it is.

The comments on the DDN site are mostly bashing the commissioners- but they aren’t the only ones to blame- State tax policies, Ohio building codes, and the prime mistake- government involvement in “Economic Development” instead of sticking to the core business of providing social and public infrastructure.

Note: Chapel Electric isn’t in the DDP defined Downtown and neither is Woolpert. Also- Urban Nights- run by the DDP often included businesses outside of their core area- however their ommission of the Oregon District in their handbook is embarrassing.

You can see a lot of my positions on these issues on this site.

Here is the DDN article (they tend to take down the links)

Single vision for downtown push needed, some say

Promoters defend their program that others call divisive, lacking wide enough vision to succeed.

By Jim DeBrosse

Staff Writer

DAYTON | The Downtown Dayton Partnership’s newest brochure, Downtown at Your Fingertips, provides 60 glossy color pages of places to eat, drink and be entertained in the business core. Conspicuously missing are nearly all the bars, cafes and restaurants in the popular Oregon District.
Partnership officials say the omission was only fair since Oregon District businesses voted not to be a part of downtown’s Special Improvement District, where businesses pay an additional tax to support the partnership’s promotional efforts. The tax brings in about $1.25 million annually.

Regardless of the cause, the brochure’s blind spots illustrate just how fragmented the downtown and Dayton area development push has become.

“If you can’t espouse a single vision (for downtown) and market it, you can’t attract people here,” said Ron Budzik, a retired Mead executive and Downtown Dayton Partnership board member.

Budzik and other community leaders agree that downtown development efforts are hampered by overlapping and often competing development offices at the city, county and regional levels. It doesn’t benefit the region’s economy, they argue, when Kettering can lure companies such as Woolpert Inc., Chapel Electric and MeadWestvaco out of downtown.

With the region in general losing jobs, “it’s like rearranging deck chairs” on a sinking ship, said Maureen Pero, Downtown Dayton Partnership president.

The partnership represents what many business people and development officials say is an arbitrarily small portion of downtown, bounded by the Great Miami River, U.S. 35 and Patterson Boulevard. Pero points out that outlying business districts, including Webster Station and the Oregon District, were approached but voted not to be a part of the partnership’s taxation district.

Some small-business owners within the district say they resent paying the tax when they perceive very little benefit to themselves. “We don’t get anything for our money,” said Jerry Hauer, owner of Hauer Music Co. on Patterson Boulevard. “No one in that organization has ever been over to Hauer Music to say, ‘What can I do to help you?’ ”

On the other hand, Matt Newsome, manager of Gregory’s piano bar, which opened this month across from the Victoria Theatre, credits the partnership with cutting through the city’s red tape in getting the permits he needed to open his business.

Many downtown retailers say they have benefited from the twice a year Urban Nights events sponsored and promoted by the partnership, aimed at bringing Dayton-area residents downtown to see the art galleries, housing opportunities, restaurants and other amenities.

And nearly everyone agrees that the partnership’s Safe and Clean Program, with its green T-shirt clad “ambassadors” who patrol and tidy downtown streets, has been a success in making downtown more welcoming.

But both Hauer and David Esrati, owner of the Next Wave marketing firm and a long-time city advocate, note that the bulk of the partnership’s revenues go to staff salaries, including Pero’s. According to federal tax filings, Pero was paid $182,000 in 2004 with $25,000 in benefits for managing a staff of 12.

By comparison, the city of Dayton is seeking a new city manager to oversee 16 department heads at a salary of $160,000, city officials said.

Esrati agreed with Budzik that downtown development needs a broader focus and more collaboration. “It has to be region-wide and it has to have a level playing field” so new construction in the suburbs is not more desirable than converting existing buildings in the urban core, he said.

Downtown also needs a comprehensive parking plan that includes diagonal street parking, uniform signage and rates as well as sidewalk parking for scooters and bikes, he said.

“We’re not being very smart (about downtown development) and we haven’t been for a long time,” Esrati said.

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