Quality of life is economic development. Let’s organize it better.

The Dayton Daily News has turned over a new leaf- and has gone on a waste-busting spree. First up wasn’t the clown corps  in charge of tax giveaways- the “economic development” people- which we have in abundance. Nope- it’s the people in charge of providing public amenities.

First was yesterday’s “news” that most municipalities lose money on public golf courses. Well, they also lose money on parks and playgrounds- as you could look at the “opportunity costs” involved vs. having housing or businesses on parkland- plus the cost of upkeep. However, golf isn’t the most practical of things to subsidize. The number of golfers in our population is relatively low because we’re not a retirement community- and golf is a game for those with plenty of time on their hands and usually some money, too. Also- it takes up an awful lot of space for relatively few players. Compare a soccer complex with a measly 10 full-size fields, 2 kids-sized, throw in some volleyball, a BMX track, a half dozen baseball diamonds- and even a pond, picnic shelters and parking, wait- did I just describe Delco Park- and you have less space, with higher use than 3 tees at a golf course.

Also, public golf courses compete directly with private golf courses- who have to pay taxes on all that land- not a fair equation.

You did notice one thing though- Dayton was one of the few communities to break even on golf, imagine that.

Rob Drydek Skate Park in KetteringNext up in the DDN hit list is the new Kettering water park- and mention of the closed Splash Moraine. Kettering understands better than most communities that good parks and recs are good for building a good community. They also have good schools and have managed to have a modicum of diversity as opposed to our outer-ring communities. Besides the aforementioned Delco Park- they also have a world famous signature skateboard park, courtesy of native son Rob Drydek and DC Shoes, and an ice arena- the only public hockey-sized skating rink in Montgomery County (where you will find me playing Huff-n-Puff hockey each winter). We could also add that Kettering has an amazing complex at the High School- and James Trent Arena- open to residents, an arts program at Rosewood and the Fraze pavilion which hosts concerts- including free ones- all summer long.

Compare that to Dayton- which has no skate park, no dog park, no BMX track, no soccer facility, closed its arts center, handed over Island Park band shell to Metroparks, closed pools, and a useless sized ice rink under the stewardship of Metroparks at Riverscape.

Kettering gets quality of life as a measure of success and understands that healthy cities have healthy residents. Dayton on the other hand would rather engage in crony-capitalism and try to artificially prop up home values by subsidizing both for-profit and non-profit builders in adding new homes (See the Charles Simms homes or the ones being built by East End Community Services or the St. Mary’s Development refurbishment of Marvin Gardens) while we have an abundance of housing stock that we are simultaneously spending huge money to tear down- or “deconstruct.”

Read the title of the person in charge of the new Kettering water park in this DDN quote:

“There is a huge demand for quality recreational experiences in Kettering and a huge demand for water in Kettering,” said Bill Tschirhart, the Kettering parks’ business services manager. “We gave them exactly what they wanted.”

via Kettering’s new waterpark fills void, draws crowds.

The “Kettering parks’ business services manager”- that they understand that parks and recs is a business- and a service to the community is how advanced Kettering gets it.

We do have a regional entity that gets quality of life as economic development- it’s called Five Rivers Metroparks- and if greater Dayton were smart- we’d move all parks and recs programs under its authority, provide Metropasses to Montgomery County residents based on the contributions of their communities’ current investment in recs programs and on average income of the community. Cities would pay into the program based on census numbers- with fixed contributions per person and we’d start seeing a true quality of life infrastructure system that is balanced and well run.

Kettering deserves kudos and study by every other community in the region for its mastery of this part of government. The rest of the region needs to start understanding that we will only begin to advance as a community once we start working together.

Investing in youth sports?

We’ve seen the last twenty years of failure by local governments investments in private corporations. We’ve also seen a rise in gangs, drop out rates, crime.

Why? Because the City of Dayton stopped investing in the youth- and youth sports programs. We’ve cut our parks and rec’s program to bare bones. Look at Kettering- a BMX track, Delco park with it’s multitude of soccer fields- the Rob Dyrdek designed skate park. Dayton has amulti-million dollar fountain that misfires.

Greg Hunter and David Esrati talk about youth sports in todays Dayton Grassroots Daily Show v34

Let’s start investing in people- not corporations if we want to move Dayton forward again. Strong neighborhoods, strong youth programs, strong place to do business.

B-cycle and sustainablity. Bike share in Dayton, build on strengths

So much focus has been on what we don’t have in Dayton- yet, we take for granted what we have all the time. I just got back from a five mile run on the bikeway, going past Garden Station, Deeds Point, Kettering Fields, the Canoe Club,  Island Park and Riverscape. It was a beautiful day for a run. It was a good day for day-dreaming of what we could have.

If you’ve read my posts about Sportsplex, you know I envision a huge rec-center, outdoor sports HQ extending over from Kettering Fields on the land formerly occupied by Parkside homes. But, that’s a tens-of-millions proposition. For now, we should at least considering converting the land to soccer/football fields as a way to bring more people down to this beautiful area. Think Delco Park in Kettering as a model. With people come opportunities for selling food, sporting goods, daycare etc.

However, the problem still, and always will be the same- with every additional person coming down to the area, comes a car. Cars require gas, cars require parking spaces. Parking lots are expensive. They are the reason that skyscrapers aren’t being built in Dayton anymore- with each cubicle comes the requirement of a parking space. Think about it.

This is why we would see instant transformation, especially of “summer spaces” like Kettering Fields, if we had a fleet of easy access bicycles available for shuttling people from parking to playing fields- and from playing fields to fast food (up Keowee, downtown). By building on the strengths of our bike paths already in place, and adding bicycles- we’ve changed everything.

B-Cycle is a relatively inexpensive addition to our community. For less than the naming rights of the Dragons’ field, or a few high school football fields. A major player like Premier Health Partners, Kettering Health Network, DP&L or the like, could transform the city – and give themselves an amazing advertising vehicle (pun intended) to spread their message about the kind of community we have- and the kind we want to have.

I made a presentation at the LexisNexis World Usability Day event on Thursday. The theme was sustainability. When you consider how much pollution a car spews in just a short 4-mile trip (which is what a majority of our trips end up being) or that the car is the second highest expense in most households, adding bicycles everywhere could make a huge impact.

I’m on a whirlwind mission to get this launched, at least in demonstration mode with a limited installation, by next July. If you are interested in helping make this happen, please let me know.

Writing off the big picture. The MidPark silver bullet

If your business is a restaurant, you can spend all day dreaming about the fine china you want to buy, or the dishes you could prepare, or you could work hard on working with what you have.
If you are the City of Dayton, you come up with dreams for “MidPark” the area just North of South Park and South of Downtown.
Someone has spent a lot of time dreaming up a new way to call “urban renewal” via bulldozer and new construction- something different.
Read the whole plan:

Neighborhood Development Strategic Planning Group (NDSPG) specifically chose to look at the MidPark geography because of its perceived long?term
marketability and the ability to leverage previous successful development in adjacent areas.  The
MidPark District has been a virtual “no mans land”…a mish mash of underutilized land and
buildings with no real focus or continuity for a very long time.  However, because of its location the group felt it had extreme potential.

MidPark is located between Downtown and two of Dayton’s largest institutions ? The University
of Dayton and Miami Valley Hospital who have made huge investments not only on their own
campuses, but have reached out to the areas that surround them as well.

recommendations_housing_appendix1.pdf (application/pdf Object).

With an overabundance of inexpensive real estate, including some amazing homes for a song, we’re talking about concentrating efforts on a pretty new green field and its surrounding area mostly because it’s near two of our biggest income tax generators (since both UD & MVH get property tax exemptions).

Do you remember Courthouse Square, The Arcade, Riverscape? All of these projects were supposed to “jump start” the community. Midpark is yet another dream, much like Ballpark Village.

The reality is Dayton should be getting out of the real estate game. Unload all the property we own to people who want to build something on them or own real estate and pay taxes. What? No one wants to buy our real estate? You don’t say… maybe it’s because we’re so busy dreaming about projects like this, that we’ve failed our basic service commitments like safe neighborhoods, good schools, parks and recreation and well maintained infrastructure.

There is an interesting analysis by Daytonology’s Jeffery over at Dayton Most Metro on this “plan”: http://www.daytonmostmetro.com/forum/index.php?topic=1364.msg12802#msg12802

Wouldn’t it be better if private developers felt they could pull this off on their own? What could the city do to encourage private development?

What I don’t understand is why the apartment buildings lining the East side of Warren are written off? Marvin Gardens had been rumored to be close to being acquired by someone with the ability to properly rehab and manage them. The new Coco’s is going to be at the corner of Warren and Lincoln- without tax incentives.

If a private developer can’t make something work here without a handout, all hope for Dayton is lost. We just saw how the city totally botched the Wayne and Wyoming “Kroger” development over five years and wasting millions of dollars- why should it be involved here?

Would our “development dollars” be better spent on big ticket development like trolleys, or smaller noticeable improvements like better lighting under the overpasses, or configuring the nearby park with usable soccer/football fields, tennis courts that aren’t a joke, a basketball court that doesn’t include the San Andreas fault, and maybe a fountain to play in during the summer?

Need something to compare to? Head over to Lincoln Park in Kettering or Delco Park. Why not take the old Cliburn Manor site and make it into a dog park? Or a skate park, or a BMX track? We still have space for in-fill housing and rehab opportunities in South Park. Build public amenities nearby and the rest of the area may attract more investment. Add a walk-to-work tax credit- and UD and MVH employees may consider moving down into the area.

Government should be spending tax dollars providing services that don’t make sense for private businesses and create value for the greater good- and greater area. These micro development projects that subsidize private investors are hurting all of us.

Focus on getting the basics right- the flourishes will follow.