For the first time in more than four decades, people are living in the Dayton Arcade.
Fifteen units are leased and occupied, and all 110 apartments could open by mid-June ― a notable milestone because new housing is a key component of the massive massive transformation of the downtown complex.
The Art Lofts at the Dayton Arcade are unique housing units that are part of a “city-within-a-city” development unlike anything close by in the region, offering live, learn, work, play and create options, said John Gower, urban design director and placemaking engineer with CityWide and the city of Dayton.
Jillena McConnell, who moved in the Arcade on Friday, said the redevelopment project is a sign of hope for downtown and the Dayton community.
“It looks like everything else in downtown is coming together,” she said. “I just want to be a part of something that to me once was dead but is coming back to life.”
More than two-thirds of the arcade’s 110 housing units are now open, and the rest hopefully will be completed and available next month, said Trace Shaughnessy, vice president of McCormack Baron Salazar Inc, which is handling the residential side of the arcade’s redevelopment.
Tenants started moving into the arcade in early April, and the Art Lofts has received about 80 applications from potential tenants, who must meet income restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Four of the arcade’s nine interconnected buildings will offer apartments: the Fourth Street building (39 units); the Lindsey building (36); the Ludlow building (21) and the Commercial building (14).
Seven apartments are market-rate units, but they are already pre-leased, with a fairly lengthy waiting list, said Todd Evans, property manager of the Art Lofts.
The rest of the units are affordable housing that are designed to appeal to artistic professionals, makers and creative-class entrepreneurs, officials said.
Evans said he’s been extremely busy showing apartments and giving tours.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to has very fond memories of the arcade from childhood and young adulthood,” he said. “I think people are delighted it’s still here, occupied again and ... so many people have told me how wonderful it is that this has been saved.”
One-bedroom units range from $748 to $930, while two-bedroom units range from $878 to $1,080, developers said.
Some Art Lofts apartments have original hardwood floors, while others have a new luxury vinyl tile.
Apartments have washers and dryers, new stainless steel appliances and other modern fixtures. Residents will have access to a community room, exercise room and business center.
The Art Lofts have many of the same kinds of attributes that have made downtown apartments very popular, said Scott Murphy, vice president of economic development with the Downtown Dayton Partnership.
“The building has great onsite amenities, the units have lots of natural light and the arcade is steps away from downtown attractions like the Levitt Pavilion, the Oregon District and the Schuster Center,” he said.
Dayton is an affordable city, but the Art Lofts provide a housing choice for people who want to live downtown but who make significantly less than the area median income, Murphy said.
“As downtown continues to grow and residential rents continue to push up, preserving a good mix of price points will be really important,” he said.
Until now, no one had lived in the Arcade since 1978, when the complex underwent its first major renovation, said Gower, with CityWide.
The renovation project was supposed to update and reconfigure the apartments, but that did not happen due to financing issues, he said.
But the arcade now has apartments with first-class amenities like powerful WiFi, he said, and some parts of the complex that were offices are now new housing.
People lived in the arcade from the day it opened in March 1904 until 1978, Gower said.
McConnell, 43, who started moving into her unit on Friday, said she remembers visiting the arcade as a kid, and she also worked for years in the old Dayton Daily News building across the street.
McConnell said her apartment is very attractive and has great views of the city, and the arcade project feels like a major achievement that is breathing new life into downtown.
“I really just like the history behind it,” she said.
McConnell, who met the Art Lofts’ income restrictions, said her rent is hundreds of dollars less than what other downtown apartments cost.
McConnell will live in the arcade with her three children, who say they look forward to being in the heart of the city, close to urban amenities.
“You don’t have to leave to wash your clothes, it’s really nice and everything is new,” said Jyleca McConnell, McConnell’s 22-year-old daughter.
“I’m just glad to be back in Dayton ― I’ve been in Fairborn for a while, and it’s so quiet over there and I’m not used to that,” said Cerjyo McConnell, her 19-year-old son. “I like it over here ― there’s a lot of stuff to do.”