The frustration of a Dayton small business owner

Jason Liff is someone I’ve known for a long time. He’s been in real estate as long as I’ve known him, and has done some decent sized deals. He was the one who introduced me to the owner of the Salem Mall- which I tried to save. He also was one of the investors on the Sears deal downtown that netted the investors quite a bit (one of the investors was County Administrator Deborah Feldman’s father-in-law who is her husband’s partner).

UPDATE

Jason also put together the Walgreens deal at Wayne and Wyoming- the one that went in ahead of Rite Aid- even though it got the later start (thanks to historic overlay- the forced move of a worthless house and other delays).

I suggested that Jason open a scooter store over 4 years ago. Last year he did. My firm did his identity and some initial ads. He posted this on the free bus ride editorial on the DDN site- I’m not changing spelling or punctuation.

I voted with my money and opened a scooter store on Wayne Avenue. It took over a year to get through the zoning and permitting process . From experience I can report that, but for a few people, the entire system is riddled with a mentality of no , no, no . -“You cannot do this or that & One cannot change the use of a derelict building on Brown Street . No you cannot put your scooter store in The Oregon “, even though a 5000 sf space exists that no one wants to buy or rent. Why do people avoid Dayton ? Demographics of course. In the main there is a systemic business unfriendly all pervasive atmosphere coupled with a perception of potential violence . We need to encourage small business by discouraging and truncating governments strangle hold on new business ! The city government has rooms full of employees who read chapter and verse from the , THE BOOK OF NO . As an early visitor to the NYC SOHO & Tribeca districts in 1970 ,I can tell you these now model districts did not get started by a pervasive and draconian implementing of every minute policy practice and procedure . Like all such areas in the world they start by a few young , artistic, counterculture oriented people looking for cheaper spaces to work and play with some character. Why don’t we finish up tenanting the Oregon district and loosening the regs that stand in the way ? A few community activist in Oregon that were urban pioneers now block changes to completing 5th Street . How about enforcing the speed limit on Wayne avenue ? How about enforcing anti-littering laws . My sidewalk and lot are littered by 100’s of cigarette butts and candy pop cans . How about an ombudsman process that guarantees answers to all zoning and permitting issues in seven days ? National retail tenants are not coming back so go after the small entrepreneurs, the new Americans that are not afraid of hard work and tough clientele and the arts and crafts communities . The RTA has wasted a lot of money on their edifice complex, even so we do not need free busing of more thugs and scary types. What Dayton does have is cheap rent , cheap buildings ,a vibrant artistic community and historic housing stock that people would cry for in most cities. Artists , and musicians especially can find cheap rent at Front Street —We need more ! Finish something already- Try to fill every building on Wayne and Fifth and Brown and Warren. Oh yes bicycle lanes would be great for scooters mopeds and bicycles and any separation from SUV speeders that crowd others while talking on their phones. Untangle the choke holds of the 3 or 4 structures that throttle all but what they want ! Government is the problem—the entrenched versus the new —Until resolved the buildings will stay boarded up and the retail community will stay away . Call me ! Jason Liff Moto Scooto 1400 Wayne

via Editorial: Free bus rides not the city’s best strategy | A Matter of Opinion.

Jason looked hard and long for a location in the city. Almost everything he found – there was a reason he couldn’t go in. The building he’s in on Wayne Avenue- was on “death row.” There were options from the city to buy it that ended in December- so they could tear it down for a Kroger that wasn’t coming. He had to invest in the building, since the owner wouldn’t- to repair the roof which was leaking. Even his paint job- which some may love and some may hate- is technically in violation of the zoning code. The colors aren’t “historic.” Since the building was condemned the city seemed to look the other way.

The location he really wanted- on 5th Street in the Oregon district- a former pawn shop, between a porn shop and Goodwill- is still sitting empty. It was bigger, had the walking traffic he was interested in reaching- and even has a garage door in back. No deal. Wrong use, too intensive, not enough parking- etc. etc. So it still sits empty.

This isn’t the only business person I’ve heard horror stories from, and it’s not hard to hear them. Another businessman who has successfully rehabbed many downtown buildings over the last 20 years and knows his way around city hall at first ran into a roadblock trying to get a demolition permit on a nasty concrete block garage next to his new project. Apparently it had a $7,000 water bill still attached to it. How anyone can buy a building and NOT find out about a water bill for more than the property sold for is another big FAIL at business friendly.

We also have a bed and breakfast fighting for a permit to sell wine in the Oregon District. It took the 5th Street Wine and Deli almost a year to get their permit. This isn’t new, Pacchia and What You Eat both had to fight to get their permits, too. Some “entertainment” district.

I still believe in Dayton– even though I just had my office broken into. But, I remember back to the hassles I went through over 20 years ago to reclaim a derelict building, including a nine-month delay in an occupancy permit and the realization that my zoning is still considered a “conditional use” even though the building was built as a commercial retail structure. To add insult to injury, the building inspector required that my front door (which has a huge window in it) had to have a single key deadbolt with a thumb key- which gave the thieves the ability to break in and get out easier.

Yep, the city of Dayton needs a new attitude, and quick. Mr. Liff spells it out pretty clearly. The question is can an old dog learn new tricks? Mayor Leitzell is only one vote.

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