Dayton stakeholders to unveil vision today for downtown recovery

Downtown Dayton stakeholders will announce plans this morning about their vision for downtown’s future following the COVID-19 pandemic and a past decade that included $1.5 billion worth of private and public investment.

“A plan has been created to identify short-term and long-term recommendations, and set a vision for downtown’s recovery following the pandemic shutdown,” a Downtown Dayton Partnership release says.

The plan has the support of more than 100 public and private leaders, and will “provide a series of targeted strategies and initiatives that will continue the momentum of growth that Dayton businesses, employees, residents and visitors have worked on over the past several years,” according to the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

Downtown saw a healthy dose of investment last year, despite the global pandemic and bruised economy. About $90 million was invested in the greater downtown area in 2020, as developers finished some new buildings and converted old commercial buildings into new apartments, offices and amenities, the DDP said.

Notable projects completed in 2020 included the $18 million renovation of the Dayton Motor Car building at 15 McDonough St., the roughly $20 million redevelopment of the Elks and Huffman Block buildings in the Fire Blocks District and a new $3.5 million mixed-use building was constructed at Monument Avenue and Webster Street in the rapidly-growing Water Street District.

Premier Health and Encompass Health also teamed up to construct a $24 million rehabilitation hospital near Miami Valley Hospital on South Main Street. And Sinclair College completed about $4.5 million worth of improvements to its campus and corridors.

At DDP’s 2020 annual meeting, the organization said there are about $420 million worth of projects still in the pipeline. The Dayton Arcade is one of these projects.

As investment in downtown continues to grow, building permits for about 1,700 new privately owned housing units were issued in the Dayton metro area last year, which was the most units since before the housing market crash and the Great Recession, according to new U.S. Census survey data.

“As large employers relocate to Dayton and current employers based in Dayton grow, the already high demand for housing in the area will continue to increase,” said David Neal, Windsor Companies’ chief operating officer.

Since 2010, there has been a 77% increase in market-rate housing in the city’s core, according to the DDP.

Despite the explosive growth in inventory, downtown’s occupancy rate is still about 94% to 95%, said Scott Murphy, vice president of economic development with the DDP in a Nov. 2020 report.

For years, unused commercial spaces on downtown’s street-level, particularly along Main Street, was a weakness for downtown. However, John Gower, urban design director and placemaking engineer with CityWide and the city of Dayton, thinks those vacancies now present one of the best opportunities for economic growth.

Dayton, CityWide and the Downtown Dayton Partnership have been developing a “playbook of possibilities” for what downtown can become in coming years, Gower said.

The draft document, which is expected to be completed later this year, will provide redevelopment and streetscape ideas for more than 68 buildings and sites.

Downtown has become a centerpiece of the region partly because thoughtful investments in recent decades set the stage for its revival, like the construction of the ballpark, said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

At the same time, Dayton leaders on Tuesday began hosting a series of 11 community meetings to get feedback on how the city should spend its nearly $138 million in federal rescue funds. Those meetings are open to residents through the end of July to share their ideas and input on how to best improve the city.

The city also is promoting an online survey that asks visitors to identify some of their top priorities.

Staff reporter Cornelius Frolik contributed to this report.

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