South Park as the Catalyst for a Greater Dayton?

It’s nice to see a good news piece about our neighborhood , Historic South Park, as the cover story of the Dayton City Paper. Despite what you may think about this neighborhood from reading the uncensored stories here- of my recent break-ins (which can almost all be connected directly with just a few bad actors).

The piece is written by one of our own- it’s PR for sure- but, it has the facts straight, unlike what you’d read in the Dayton Daily.

I particularly liked this quote- which if extrapolated- is also the answer for Dayton- greater Dayton, not just the city of…

While the physical layout of South Park contributes to its neighborliness, and an active neighborhood association aids its development, no single entity is strong enough to lift up a community on its own, according to urban historian Alexander von Hoffman. “For successful and sustained renewal, communities need a cadre of leaders who can change the perceptions and actual conditions that affect the reputation of their neighborhood,” von Hoffman said. “Leaders must coordinate the actions of its residents and create innovative alliances between local government, private investors, realtors, individuals, non-profit groups and law enforcement.”

via Building a better South Park : Dayton City Paper.

Note the part about “changing perceptions and actual conditions that affect the reputation”- it’s what’s missing in Dayton. We don’t have the vision- coming from a cadre of leaders- in fact, one would question if we’ve elected leaders at all in Dayton- we seem to have mouthpieces committed to the status quo. Find an elected leader having a conversation about change online- in public- or even mentioning things we could do.

It doesn’t take a whole lot of people to form the core cadre- but what it does take is a concerted effort to show a vision of where we could be- and how we’ll get there.

We’ve got too much dead weight in elected positions throughout “greater Dayton”- with all of our fiefdoms- it dilutes the strength of leadership and lends itself to largess and laziness.

But, back to the South Park article- we’ve seen a huge shift from around 70% rental properties to 70% resident-owned properties in the last 25 years I’ve been here. Because of a shared vision- we’ve seen neighbor after neighbor not only take care of their own houses- but, invest in others. The confidence in our shared vision has made the neighborhood vital and confident investment has followed.

Because I’m running for office- I’ll also point out, that I served as President for 2 years- and cultivated a successor- who was then followed by Karin Manovich. I took over a neighborhood that had been divided by the previous president- who liked to foster a class divide- I brought the neighborhood back together, mended fences and brought structure and order to meetings that had been running many hours- and got them under control. I was also the innovator who suggested the for-profit development corporation- South Park Social Capital, which was instrumental in transforming Skinner;s bar- a trouble spot, into the South Park Tavern.

None of the South Park miracle would have been possible without some of the things that I believe have been key to our success:

  • Definite boundaries with good natural divisions.
  • Historic zoning which has helped standardize expectations for repairs- and differentiated the neighborhood from others.
  • An amazing variety of housing stock, with something for everyone.
  • The central location with excellent highway access.
  • Good corporate neighbors- UD, MVH, NCR
  • A wide cross section of people in the community, from diverse professions, backgrounds and socio-economic diversity.
  • And most importantly the investment of MVH in supplying Community Based Police officers over the last 15 years. Without improved perception of law enforcement- none of this would have been possible.

There is one thing I’ve learned in the 25 years of being part of this organized community- is that we can’t take our eye off the ball. We have to keep our citizens engaged and working together. I’ve seen blocks rise and fall and rise back up again- all based on the people who are living there. I’ve seen houses rehabbed- sell high- and then fall into disrepair only to be picked back up. There is no finish line in this competition for a quality neighborhood- only a journey that can be progressively more enjoyable if the community chooses to work together.

If there has been one factor that has slowed us down more than anything- it has been the loss of so many young families over the years who leave as their kids hit school age. If we don’t have confidence in our community schools, it severely hurts our community. I’ve been trying to work with Dayton School Superintendent Lori Ward to find ways to reconnect neighborhood kids who could be attending as many as 30 different schools- hopefully, soon, we’ll have an initiative in place to solve this major problem and start keeping our best social capital in our community- in our community.

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