On Nov. 14, the city of Dayton learned it would become the ninth host city of a Levitt Foundation pavilion.
The foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to each selected city to construct the pavilions in what it calls "third places" -- usually grassy areas big enough to hold a couple thousand people. The goal is to bring community members together through performances that are free and open to all.
Sandy Bashaw serves on the Friends of Levitt Dayton board and is a musician herself. She has been privy to nearly every detail in the process that's taken the better part of three years to culminate.
That includes helping raise the $5 million needed to get the project started. The Levitt Foundation will kick in $500,000 initially, and add another $250,000 for first-year operating expenses, with continued contributions going forward.
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"When you are presented with this program, it's a no-brainer," Bashaw said.
The pavilion, slated for completion in Dave Hall Plaza in 2018, is expected to be a central and crucial cog in the plan to redevelop and energize the nine-block area of downtown Dayton referred to as "The Nine". If city leaders are successful, Levitt Pavilion will further encourage both retail and residential developers to set their sights on The Nine.
"The Centre City Building was just recently purchased. While there is a garage in part of it at street level, this would be primo for restaurants and shops that wanted to have sidewalk (traffic)," Bashaw said.
But aside from the benefit it is expected to bring to businesses and the community at large, the plan is to make Dayton's Levitt Pavilion a high-quality experience for those directly utilizing it, Bashaw explained.
“Our focus is the experience for both the performers and the audience. My focus is to make that as good an experience as possible. To me that means superior sound and really good lighting.
"You can have people of different ages, economic and ethnic backgrounds and so forth sitting in the same space. When they share a high-quality, uplifting musical experience, they begin to look at each other differently," she said.
The foundation ensures production values by making sure all of their pavilions have nice dressing rooms, showers and green rooms for the performers, as well as ample space to store gear.
"It's got to be accessible and comfortable," Bashaw added.
The only real guidelines, in terms of the 50 required yearly performances, are that the music must be original, that there will be children's programs and that the performances end early enough not to disrupt residents or people staying in the nearby Crowne Plaza Hotel.
It will be up to a small staff and Friends of Levitt Dayton as to who graces the stage. Despite the shows being free to the public, all performers will be paid through the foundation and fundraising.
Bashaw sees it as a win for everyone involved.
“I can’t stress enough the community-building aspect of it. That to me is maybe the most important thing the world needs now.”