First weekend of pedestrian-friendly Oregon District meets approval of businesses, attendees

People enjoy the new pedestrian promenade on Fifth St. in the Oregon District on Saturday.
People enjoy the new pedestrian promenade on Fifth St. in the Oregon District on Saturday.

Credit: Sarah Franks

Credit: Sarah Franks

The Oregon District was buzzing this weekend like it hasn’t since before the onset of COVID-19, and Fifth St. restaurants and retailers were enjoying the increased business.

The new Out on 5th pilot program officially launched Friday afternoon, and it closed a roughly 0.2-mile stretch of East Fifth Street in the Oregon District to create a new pedestrian mall from Friday evenings to Sunday nights.

“We were able to have sales that were like what I would typically be able to do on a Friday night with nice weather in the Oregon District,” said Emily Mendenhall, owner of Lily’s Bistro and vice president of Oregon District Business Association.

For me, that has not been the case pretty much all of 2020. So, for me this is like literally a lifeline for my business to make it to 2021. They (sales) were strong, it’s going to be one of our best weekends of the year for sure.”

ExploreOregon District changes start this weekend: How to have a perfect Fifth Street experience

A few boutiques and shops from the district setup up tents outside along the new pedestrian promenade to showcase and sell some merchandise.

People enjoy the new pedestrian promenade on Fifth St. in the Oregon District on Saturday.
People enjoy the new pedestrian promenade on Fifth St. in the Oregon District on Saturday.

Credit: Sarah Franks

Credit: Sarah Franks

“Last night, they had tables out, people were eating and I just loved the whole feeling of being able to walk the whole street,” said Kara Conard, co-owner of Jo Belle Designs. “(It) just (felt) sort of casual and like you were just outside having a good time.”

Saturday, Conard was operating a table full Jo Belle Design products, something the business has not been able to do in months.

“We’re a vendor in 2nd Street Market but we haven’t been able to be in there,” Conard said. “Dayton Downtown Partnership reached out and said ’If you’d like to participate let us know.’ All our events were cancelled...we were supposed to be on Art on the Commons, Oktoberfest -- so for us this has been really great.”

ExploreGlen Helen trails to reopen after ownership change

This weekend was also the official launch of Dayton’s first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA). Fifth Street in the Oregon District, and some nearby areas including parts of Wayne Avenue, will now allow people to drink alcohol on the streets and sidewalk.

The new outdoor drinking district will operate every day of the week from noon to 10 p.m. The only drinks permitted outside are sold in special containers at businesses participating in the DORA.

“It’s like you’re breaking a rule, but it’s OK,” said Dayton resident Ali Fuller as she enjoyed a drink on Fifth Street on Saturday during lunch. “I feel absolutely safe here and everybody’s kind of sticking to the rules.”

Hillary Wagner, Cincinnati resident visiting Dayton for the day, was sitting at one of the public tables setup along Fifth St. Saturday afternoon enjoying the cloudless weather. The new district, weekend setup reminded her of her favorite place, Italy.

“I think it’s awesome,” Wagner said. “It reminds me of Europe where they have plazas and people can gather, but we don’t have that built into our infrastructure here. I love that about Italy. It encourages people to spend time together, rather than just go from business to business, which is like a lot of our cities are here in America.”

Jackson Stanard, freshman at the University of Dayton and vendor selling his drawings from a table outside of Mike’s Vintage Toys, said he made more money than expected on Saturday.

“It’s good to see because it’s pretty sad around here lately, there hasn’t really been activity,” Stanard said. “Everybody had this sort of sadness -- and (then) yesterday and today, I haven’t seen this place happier.”

On weekends in September and October, beginning at 3 p.m. this Friday, Fifth Street will be closed to vehicle traffic and transformed into a pedestrian promenade starting at 5 p.m. until about 10 p.m. Sundays. The street will reopen to vehicles Monday morning by 7 a.m.