The Dayton Renaissance
By Gary D. Leitzell
Last October, I wrote an article in the Dayton City Paper about 63 things that have happened since the start of 2010. That list has already grown by another 15 items, but I want to take a moment to list some other facts that are not well known. It would appear that Dayton is experiencing a renaissance, and that renaissance has velocity. Forty-four new businesses and organizations opened in downtown Dayton in 2012. Downtown is also experiencing a restaurant boom. Three new eateries opened in the last quarter of 2012 and another four are opening in early 2013.
The formation of the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance in July 2012 – being an administrative merger of the Dayton Ballet, Dayton Opera and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra – may actually be the first of its kind in the nation and is being followed as a national model by other organizations.
The River Run Project, a kayaking feature in the heart of downtown – which was not part of the Greater Downtown Plan until late 2010 – reached its $4 million fundraising goal thanks to the tireless efforts of Dr. Michael Ervin and a $1 million challenge grant from the Cox Foundation. This should begin to take shape in 2013 with the removal of the low dam and the construction of the two boulder-like structures with passageways for canoes and kayaks.
Downtown housing is extremely popular these days. Occupancy rates for owner and rental property average around 95 percent. The Patterson Square development of 18 townhomes sold out in just 54 weeks: a sale rate unequaled in some of the suburbs. The Litehouse homes across the street grew by an additional three units. The Sixth Street Lofts next to Jay’s Seafood in the Oregon District are seeing a new lease on life after almost a decade of vacancy. These should start to become available around April this year. If you have ever had an interest in Downtown Dayton living, stay tuned because there are more options opening up this year.
Dayton is marketing itself like never before. Three years ago the City Facebook page had 1,000 “likes” and today it has almost 17,000. This means that information can be distributed with the click of a mouse to many of our citizens. Citizens are promoting the great things about this city and the region. We have achieved some national and international publicity, which has injected a dose of patriotism into our citizens and it seems that numbers of people claiming to be proud Daytonians have increased exponentially. Even City Hall has taken a proactive marketing approach with the frequent “Talk to City Hall” videos on YouTube and the recent “Take Five with the City Manager” episodes on DATV and YouTube. Cross promotion during special events is happening. Restaurants downtown are offering special deals when Broadway shows come to Dayton. Businesses are promoting each other and partnering to host events so all benefit. You could call it co-opitition! More opportunities are coming in 2013, mark my words.
Technology is changing the face of Dayton. LED lighting is being used to brighten Dayton at night. Our bridges glow with color at night and buildings are starting to do the same. Public art is starting to appear on the street, making Dayton an attractive and friendly place to be. Credit card parking meters are appearing to make parking easier and more convenient to our customers. A new mobile search tool has been launched by the Downtown Dayton Partnership. With this app, you can locate downtown dining, nightlife, parking, shopping, arts and more on your smartphone. Just go to mobile.downtowndayton.org. We are also implementing a pilot program, using computer technology, to allow certain neighborhood leaders to report housing issues and track existing ones to reduce duplication of complaints and maximize the use of available staff. Our police department is leading the way in the use of technology to fight crime. In fact, we are probably years ahead of most other cities. Anytime technology can save time or money, it becomes an effective tool.
“Welcome Dayton,” our immigrant-friendly initiative is gaining ground. Most of the naturalizations of new citizens that occur every month involve an average of 50 new citizens from at least 20 different countries. The vast majority of the new naturalizations are people from Russia. (24 percent), followed by India (8 percent) and Turkey (8 percent). These new Americans are opening small businesses, buying property with cash and fixing it up, revitalizing Dayton’s neighborhoods.
I used to feel that Dayton was always behind the eight ball, but now we are way out in front of it. Stagnation is a thing of the past. The old paradigm of what Dayton was has completely shifted. Creativity is the new prosperity. Without creativity we will never prosper. Everyone is becoming creative these days, which is why Dayton is experiencing a rebirth. So, put your creative thinking cap on and let’s lead this trend for another decade at least!
Reach Dayton Mayor Gary D. Leitzell at 937.333.3653 or GaryLeitzell@DaytonCityPaper.com