Downtown Dayton’s renaissance

DAYTON, Ohio (July 2017)  – Over the years I have written a number of times about my perspective of our core city’s downtown. Sometimes I have been a bit too critical because I felt that the ‘game plan’ wasn’t working well enough. But quite candidly, much has changed over the last few years, especially as leaders started to focus more on attracting those who might want to live in the central business district using a residential niche marketing strategy. Both residential and commercial strategies take time and resources; but what has been happening very recently with additional new residents moving downtown can and will also pave the way for a stronger business reinvestment.

I can’t let this article go published without giving a shout out to businesses like CareSource, White Allen, Premier Health, Miami Valley Hospital, PNC, Huntington Bank, Fifth Third Bank, KeyBank, Chase and other banks and companies who have continued their commitment to downtown. And there are many others who deserve this recognition.

Lately we’ve seen and heard the news about the new Levitt Pavilion; Taylor Communications (formerly Standard Register) coming to downtown; the hopeful renaissance of our historical Arcade buildings; our region’s new and very modern library; the RiverScape whitewater attractions and so much more. Dayton was just recently listed as one of the 25 best towns of 2017 for outdoorsy people by the national publication ‘Outside Magazine’ and much of their acknowledgements were aimed at places and events in or near our downtown. And each of these has been done with private investment encouraged most of the time with public support.

No offense to all those great aforementioned companies, organizations, business and leaders, but my heroes are those small business entrepreneurs who have taken some mighty risks by building speculative housing and market-driven apartments downtown. Entrepreneur home builders like Charlie Simms, Jason Woodard, Greg Thompson and others have stuck their collective necks way out and put a stake in the ground by making a strong commitment to our core. And it’s starting to show real signs of helping stimulate this revitalization of our urban center.

Sure, maybe it’s not like some of you remember in the 60s and early 70s when there were thousands more working downtown and were out on the sidewalks each day. When I came here in 1974, Dayton still had a pretty good buzz going downtown. It was, after all, one of the biggest cities in which a small-town kid like me had ever spent time. But it takes time to reverse the trend that drove populations down in the 70s, 80s and 90s. Our latest trend may now be part of a cosmic shift; at least some of us think and hope so.

If you have lived in Dayton for 20 years or more, it may not seem like much has changed. But I assure you it has. This has been some of the best and greatest changes I’ve seen since the late 1970s. And maybe with your energized support of housing, the arts, baseball, entertainment and business, this metamorphosis may continue in the right direction for a new age of business and community leaders and residents. Maybe you’ve been to downtown for an event recently; but if you haven?t now is a great time to re-engage in our core city. There’s plenty to see and do. You might even turn out to be one of those new trendsetters who think it’s time for real urban living.

To download this article as it appeared in the Dayton Daily News, click here.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE

President & CEO

Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce