Kevin Riley: DDN Editor, a little late to the party on Downtown Dayton

I’m glad Kevin Riley finally started reading esrati.com, he’s just starting to get a grasp on what I’ve been advocating for years (the redefining downtown was in my campaign lit the first time I ran – back in the late 80’s)

These three issues are part of the solution, but, maybe the disbanding of the Downtown Dayton Partnership and removal of the Special Improvement District tax should also be considered?

Redefining downtown. We usually consider the core blocks around Third and Main streets as downtown. The partnership is floating boundaries that would include a much larger area, stretching to the University of Dayton and this newspaper’s office to the south, and to the Wright-Dunbar neighborhood to the west.

A parking study. A common complaint is the difficulty of parking downtown and the city’s aggressive ticketing at meters. One solution might be the creation of a “parking authority” to enhance both availability and management.

Downtown’s “value proposition.” A committee is looking at developing an explicit statement about what downtown should offer and what it should be, with a particular eye toward employers. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’m serving on this committee.)

Kevin Riley: Downtown too important to slip off radar.

After all, the SID tax raises the cost of doing business downtown, which has to be a hinderence. Other possible solutions:

  • Relaxing building codes for mixed use and for renovations to allow for more affordable adaptation.
  • Reevaluating zoning codes that call for parking within a certain radius- realizing that Downtown should be the ultimate walkers paradise.
  • Adopting end in parking on our wide streets to double the number of parking spaces available. Also, allowing scooters and motorcycles to park free on sidewalks where they won’t impede pedestrians- cutting down on need for more parking lots.

The constant perception that Downtown is failing is only true when you look at the micro downtown instead of the macro downtown. UD, MVH, Grandview are all doing well. NCR has left the building so to speak, with very little to be expected other than their final farewell as all the c-suite moves off to NYC as soon as possible.

The real thing missing to solve Downtown’s problems- is a City Commission that suburbanites don’t laugh at. But, of course, that’s on us- the voters (and a little on the Dayton Daily News for endorsing the losers we now have running the show).

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21 Responses

  1. Gene October 13, 2008 / 1:51 pm
    Redefine downtown all you want. To piggy back off the success of MVH and UD just showcases how desperate Downtown Dayton has become. At the end of the day none of this matters. We need to attract business to the actual downtown, where the building are 10 + stories high. Attracting business is not Dayton’s strong suit, so I suggest going through the back door and continue to turn places into living quarters. We need to have 20k people living downtown or very near this area. Businesses may not want to come, but we can get people to move there if the price is right. Then businesses will find it attractive. Until then, spin your wheels and tread water. Nothing will ever happen.
  2. Jeff October 13, 2008 / 4:56 pm
    Gene is correct. Downtown is downtown.

    You can look at the collection of neighborhoods & institutions south of downtown to Oakwood as a conceptual link to downtown, extending the “favored quarter” into the city, but they are not really a true downtown.

  3. Drexel Dave October 13, 2008 / 7:25 pm
    Everyone wants to get the “cool” people downtown, but only the “cool” people willing to spend way too much for a loft. Once we are able to get over our fear of inner city residents, which I don’t see happening anytime soon, then and only then will this be able to happen in the least.
  4. J.R. Locke October 13, 2008 / 8:55 pm
    I think we all know that Downtown is what it is and it isn’t going to change anytime soon. All that business stuff that is what you guys with the big ideas need to figure out. I don’t see how the downtown structure can compete with the suburb strip mall and office spaces.

    But like Drexel Dave said there is a fear of downtown Dayton that is cultivated in most of the suburbs. I can’t tell you how many times I would take someone who lived in the Dayton region downtown for the first time and their ass checks puckered and there eyes got real big and all were nervous….scared shitless. This was just going down to the Trolley Stop on a thursday for christ sakes….this isn’t changing anytime soon.

    This is exactly why I have pretty much given up on Dayton. Last summer I about bought a house in Huffman district but everyone that I showed the area to were scared, so scared that the chances of them visiting was about zero. When I lived on E. third street close to linden none of my friends would come down to that area without great reservation. The pessimism and fear sucks the life out of the downtown and close to downtown experience.

    Sorry for the rant….

  5. Drexel Dave October 13, 2008 / 9:03 pm
    I live on Wayne Avenue, and have had family members of friends in the past who literally refused to visit, thinking that there were bullets flying in the air – never mind the reality of my never even seeing an act of violence on the streets after seven years of life here.

    Yeah, it happens. But then again, policemen from Springboro have their wife murdered too.

    The totally ridiculous level of fear that has been incubated over the past 40 years has to be tackled before anything is ever going to change, unless of course, economics become so bad in the suburbs that suburban kids are FORCED to move into the city en masse.

  6. Drexel Dave October 13, 2008 / 9:05 pm
    And oh yeah, one of my mom’s friends and co-workers back in the 1980s was abducted and murdered: in the parking lot of the Dayton Mall.

    And I spent my college years walking gingerly through Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati at night.

    I can be found traversing through West Dayton on foot, scooter, and bicycle – with never a problem.

  7. Larkin October 13, 2008 / 10:32 pm
    The Dayton Daily News is actually a huge part of Dayton’s problems, not the least being the fear issue. Bad news gets major coverage, unless it’s bad news downtown in which case there is a pervasive “business as usual” tone to the story. The warm fuzzy stories all come from the suburbs. Homecoming, Football, prom, Christmas– it’s as if none of those things occur in Dayton proper. To make an analogy, its as if the NYT only covered things that happened in Jersey, Connecticut and Long Island. (Not to mention that the whole newspaper is written for thirty-something yuppies, and I hate to tell you this, Kevin, but that’s not your readership nor your demographic. But that’s a whole ‘nother issue.)

    We live on W. Riverview, about a block up from Edwin C. Moses, near the Park and the Soup Kitchen. We bought a fantastic Victorian brick house (It had belonged to the former director of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company: on three city lots, with a great yard, garage, Wolf range and lots of updates) for about the price of a Volkswagen Touareg. Why?

    Because white people are afraid of this neighborhood. True, its had some issues in the past with drugs and prostitution, but those days are gone. I have neighbors on four sides– I know all of them. We greet each other every day. When my hound dogs escaped their yard last week, the neighbors dropped what they were doing to help me find them and return them. At Christmastime we exchanged goodies. If I need a hand with anything, they are there for me. Our white friends do still come to see us, though.

    Here’s the thing. I had to pressure the realtor (a kindly old white man, a graduate of Chaminade and a Dayton native) to show us this house. When I wanted to buy it, he tried to dissuade me. (He was instead trying to sell me a duplex on Jersey Street. Jersey Street!) We’re have not regretted for one instant putting our foot down and buying this house, which we have made our home.

    Dayton’s downtown is vibrant enough that there is still something left to save. (Been to downtown Middletown lately? Now that’s depressing.) If you could reopen the Arcade with chain stores like Victoria’s Secret, GAP, Godiva, Bath & Body Works, Barnes & Noble, (much as I hate them, that’s the draw) or set a Macy’s down on a corner somewhere (5th & Main) you’d begin to see the downtown perk up a bit.

    But first there would have to be a change in the tax structure, and a reasonably intelligent planning board to see that it all comes together in a sane manner, with provisions for parking, and a general facelift to the area streets and sidewalks.

  8. Gene October 13, 2008 / 11:12 pm
    Downtown is different from other areas of Dayton. Downtown is much safer than most of Dayton, in my estimation, and I really don’t think Dayton as a whole is all that unsafe. People are scared of Downtown. Why? I don’t know. I was talking with a sales rep who covered DT Dayton for the first time (she used to live in Cleveland) and see commented how CLEAN DT Dayton was. I agreed. So it is not that bad.

    But other parts of Dayton can be a little scary for the average suburbanite. So how do we change this? By getting more and more people to live DT, the actual DT. Not The UD area. That area is it’s own, and is not DT. They should be linked, grow together, but UD is not Downtown. We will never get businesses to locate there bc we have no one living there. We need cheap place so young people will move there, not over priced lofts. Those are nice but not the answer. Why not have a GEORGETOWN Downtown, more living, cheaper living for all age groups. Don’t just play to the yups or the gays, but students and recent grads who don’t have a lot of money but have a lot of life.

  9. gladgirl October 14, 2008 / 12:16 am
    The father of a Miamisburg man who was killed in Dayton buying drugs on Victor Avenue is one of many people trying to blame others for their problems. In this case, it’s the the city of Dayton’s fault that his son got killed buying crack.
    I can’t understand his logic so watch for yourselves.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT2KIw_M5BM

    I’m a staff member of Dayton Dirt Collective and this video has been frequently discussed. Groups like DDC are trying to make a difference here. And you know what people CONSTANTLY say about the DDC? “You need a better space. You need to get out of there.”
    It’s obvious they don’t understand the mission here so it will take some time.
    I think it’s a beautiful thing that the two cultures of DDC misfit artists and older inner city regulars of Bingers Bar are good friends. The Binger crowd invited all us “punks” to go on a gambling cruise with them! On the corner of 3rd. & St. Clair two very different cultures are living in perfect harmony yet you won’t see THAT story in DDN or the local news.

  10. ShortWest Rick October 14, 2008 / 12:32 am
    Dang! I can see Russia from my front porch! Oh wait… that ain’t right. Fact is, every time the appraised tax values are jacked up trying to replace lost revenue it makes homes in the city less attractive, hence entire blocks of boarded up homes. It’s a self perpetuating downward spiral. You can attract all the business you want to downtown but if the residential density doesn’t exist to support them they’ll die on the vine. People just aren’t going to drive past the Greene and the Mall in hoardes to shop or have dinner in Downtown Dayton. The obvious answer is to make Dayton’s housing stock more economically attractive, especially to those contemplating walking away from their mortgage but who don’t have ruined credit yet. Sure, you can term it attracting deadbeats but I’d call it attracting those who know when it’s time to downsize and want their own pot to piss in.
  11. J.R. Locke October 14, 2008 / 2:54 am
    Very interesting boycotting Dayton….

    Anyway big ideas? Legalize all street drugs! Open up this black market then these “thugs” will be just another small business owner like they are now, except we can tax them and they can have nice little shops with parking and brick roads. It is Un-American to restrict such an enterprise.

    What’s the difference between people on crack-ice-coke-weed-smack and drunks? The drunks are the loudest!

  12. Jeff October 14, 2008 / 4:26 pm
    “And you know what people CONSTANTLY say about the DDC? “You need a better space. You need to get out of there.”

    You are in one of the more interesting parts of downtown as that block of 3rd is still a real street…hasn’t been parking lotted to death and there are still some storefront businessess. Too bad about Petra Market closing, though.

  13. Jeff October 14, 2008 / 4:34 pm
    “We need cheap place so young people will move there, not over priced lofts. Those are nice but not the answer. Why not have a GEORGETOWN Downtown, more living, cheaper living for all age groups. Don’t just play to the yups or the gays, but students and recent grads who don’t have a lot of money but have a lot of life.”

    Bingo.

  14. Jeff October 14, 2008 / 5:00 pm
    “We live on W. Riverview, about a block up from Edwin C. Moses”

    Jayne Reece neighborhood.

    There’s one of the surviving farmhouses within the city limits on that street.

    “Here’s the thing. I had to pressure the realtor (a kindly old white man, a graduate of Chaminade and a Dayton native) to show us this house. When I wanted to buy it, he tried to dissuade me.”

    …funny, considering the street. That would be a good street for that neighborhood. Hmm…were you being “steered”?

  15. Larkin October 14, 2008 / 11:41 pm
    Jeff,
    I know I was being “steered” . . . but I can get pretty balky. It’s people like the realtor that really contribute to Dayton’s problems. I have a stack of Jane Reece books if anyone is looking for one, I know they’re hard to find. Which is the surviving farmhouse?
  16. Drexel Dave Sparks October 15, 2008 / 9:38 am
    I would love a Jane Reece book.

    Any houses nearby you’d recommend.

    Peace and courage,

    DD

  17. Larkin October 15, 2008 / 3:24 pm
  18. Skeptic October 16, 2008 / 1:01 am
    I think the DDP and the City are both fighting hard for downtown. The bottom line is that you can’t force people to invest, and the Dayton region is not doing very well so it’s a tough sell with a lot of competition. Add urban sprawl to the mix and it’s amazing anything happens at all.

    Esrati, the building code comes from the STATE, and the City can do little but enforce it. To do otherwise sends a message that safety is not important.

    As to zoning and parking, the truth is that very few requests are denied when a person takes the time to follow the process. Is it that hard to stand in front of the five people on the zoning board and tell them your dream? The problem is often that people wait until the last minute and expect the City to roll over for them.

    The truth is that the everyone, including the business community, needs to step up and invest in the core. We can make a difference. Downtown is very safe and an important asset for the region.

  19. David Esrati October 16, 2008 / 6:50 am

    @skeptic
    Fighting is what John McCain was good at, and it doesn’t win the battle. Providing a vision is what Obama does- and the people follow. You can’t keep pandering for downtown, you have to support ideas- and let others execute them.
    The city can more effectively lobby the State for changes to the building code- in fact, all urban mayors (and even some small town Mayors with aging buildings in their urban cores) should be working at adaptive code for rehab. At some point, we have to realize- not every building can be 100% ADA, and either 3 hour separation or sprinklers- not both, should be acceptable.
    If you need proof about parking- take the most beautiful building on E. Fifth Street as an example- three stories to the left of Newcomes- with all the bay windows. There aren’t parking spaces available withing 250 or even 1000 feet of the building. It’s all historic so you can’t tear down anything for parking- hence, not developed.
    What makes people invest is a security that their property values will rise. That comes from confidence that the city is on a path to success. With our constant reactionary “leadership” we’ve not been able to convince the public that we’re on the right track.
    Unigov is one answer- building on strengths instead of patching weaknesses is another. Having a Mayor that isn’t laughed at- would go a long way too.

  20. Gene October 16, 2008 / 12:08 pm
    Unigov will take the cooperation of other smaller cities – and this will never happen. So we need NEW ideas, not ideas that will never happen. Again, spin your wheels and tread water, the great ideas for the city of Dayton, Dead on Arrival.
  21. Jeff October 16, 2008 / 5:35 pm
    One obvious problem with downtown is you have to pay for parking. So buisnessess choose suburban locations because parking is free, for owners, staff, and visitors. And there is more and more office development going up in suburbia (latest is MV’s “Mission Point” over on Airway Road), so less and less a reason to locate in the city.

    Also, to be brutally frank, the concentration of blacks downtown intimidates white suburbanites. Add the poor whites and various other marginal types and it’s a big turn-off to go downtown for the average person.

    It’s not really dangerous, just uncomfortable, and it’s what people mean when they say they dont think downtown is safe. Drive through down Main Street and you see groups of black people hanging out wating for the bus, so the average suburbanite will think “crime”, because the stereotype is “blackcrime”.

    Parking is a techincal issue that can be solved. Not sure how to deal with the “social issue”, with the sterotypes and perceptions that keep people away.

    I think they should just tear more of it down, since it’s unmarketable space. Finish what urban renewal started.

    What little ground floor businesses tht exist could fit in a small strip center, and just keep the newer or recently restored keeper buildings.

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