Is Dayton cool yet?

Gaggles of attractive young people — some in very, very short shorts — stumbled and tumbled up and down Broadway in Nashville on a recent hot summer night.

It was a Sunday, and they were there to play like they always do.

The reason?

Nashville — like New York, like Austin, Texas, like San Francisco — like …. is cool.

Dayton is not Nashville, but neither is New York or Austin or San Francisco.

Still Nashville, New York and Austin are cool in their own ways and so is San Francisco.

Most people would agree those places are cool even if they’ve never lived in any of those places — even if the “cool” found there isn’t the “cool” they personally find cool.

Carly Waddell and the singer-songwriter Erik DiNardo, right, wait for an Uber car in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 8, 2015. Nashville has long been a destination for young professionals and musicians. (Nathan Morgan/The New York Times)

Nashville is cool like Nashville.

Austin is cool like Austin.

New York is cool like New York.

San Francisco is cool like San Francisco.

You know what that “cool” is especially if you’ve visited those cities.

AJ Ferguson, executive director of UpDayton, says Dayton has achieved coolness.

Dayton is cool like Dayton.

There is a spirit here, AJ said. That spirit has grown.

“It is not 10 people working to make it better,” he said. “There are thousands of people working on one little piece of it to make it cool.”

AJ said Dayton is a small town with big-city amenities, relatively little traffic and affordable housing.

There is a campus-like feel, he said.

UpDayton’s goal is to keep those age 40 and younger in the region. The age and backgrounds of volunteers and summit participants vary.

Figures showing whether the number of young professionals who choose to stay in Dayton after college graduation has increased were not readily available.

AJ told me more and more people say they are in Dayton because here is where they want to be.

“The needle is moving,” he said.

You don’t really have to make plans to see friends for a night out, he told me.

“You are always running into someone, and it’s usually someone you worked on a cool project with,” he said. “If I lived in Austin or San Francisco, I would never feel like it was my city,” he said. “In Dayton, you feel like the the city needs you. It is not so big or so crazy that you can’t get to know it.”

Despite all the new housing, restaurants and other nightlife in or coming soon to downtown and its surrounding neighborhood, it is clear that not everyone sees Dayton the same way Ferguson does.

Take the recent and very good story Ponitz CTC student Mickel Miles did for WYSO’s Dayton Youth Radio program.

The 17-year-old flatly says there isn’t much for people his age downtown.

“When we do find something (to do), it is not downtown,” he says. “Downtown should be the center of the community and that’s where everybody goes when they are trying to have fun.”

We all know that what one considers fun changes with age.

When I was 21, wine was gross. Now a fun out with friends might include trying a new red or two.


ies like Austin and Nashville target much of their cool towards adults, too. At least that’s how it seems to me.

That said, it would be a mistake not to consider what Mickel and his peers think as Dayton refines its cool and becomes more of the city it wants to be.

What do you think? 

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