Parker: Arcade revival big win for downtown

The most-recent steps taken in the very long process of the redevelopment of Dayton’s historic downtown Arcade are perhaps the most significant progress in years.

For those new to our community, this is not the first attempt to revitalize this iconic structure that served our community for many decades. When I came to Dayton in the early 1970s, the facility was already falling into disrepair and almost all the tenants had vacated much of the structure. In the late ’70s, Halcyon Ltd. started to breathe new life into the rotunda and other areas. It was fun going to Charlie’s Crab and other businesses, but with the exodus from downtown of too many people and businesses, it again fell into disrepair. It sat near empty for several more decades with only a few hints of plans to raise this phoenix.

Phil Parker, president & CEO, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce

The City of Dayton, however, did not give up. Believing this centerpiece of downtown could come back to life someday they, along with City-Wide Development, Montgomery County and other entities, kept looking for the right set of developers with the expertise, vision and drive to re-establish this historic urban setting.

Enter Cross Street Partners, Model Group and McCormack Baron Salazar who, combined, offered the best vision and experience to pull this back together. They found their way to Dayton and our Arcade project. Still it has taken time, money and risk. But with the support of the University of Dayton, the Entrepreneurs Center, City- Wide Development and a host of others committed to this important block in our region’s largest city central business district, the project may well be on its way to success.

One of the keys is a vision that will help it sustain itself, unlike some previous attempts. Naturally, this will be a mixed used facility that will include creative innovative space, entrepreneurial opportunities, restaurants, retail and housing. During two major phases, the development team, supported by both private- and public-sector partners, can change not only the downtown block surrounded by Third, Fourth, Main and Ludlow streets, but can add continued redevelopment into the city’s core.

Two important elements remain in the success of the Arcade. First, we must all continue to stay the course of this vision. There is still much risk, but doing nothing is not a very sound strategy. We’ve been there. Let’s not go back. Second, we must all do a better job of sustaining its longevity by supporting the creative spaces, eating venues, retailers and housing units. We must not squander this opportunity. If we want it to succeed, we need to support it with our feet and wallets. Business tenants will need our help.

Anybody that has known me during my 45 years here in Dayton knows I’m a downtown guy. I love working, visiting and playing downtown, and I can’t wait until I again get to experience the fun and majesty of the Arcade’s rotunda and the people visiting it. That also includes nearby areas like the Fire Blocks District, Levitt Pavilion and others. You will clearly see me support the Arcade with my talk and walk. I hope you will, too.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President and CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce

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