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Some Thoughts on Downtown Dayton

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  • #94483
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    So… Anne and I just took a little trip with the kids to Dayton yesterday & today, primarily to visit and write about the Oregon District (more on that coming soon) but stayed in a hotel Downtown and walked/drove around a little bit Downtown as well. Just wanted to share some photos and thoughts. The night-time photos were taken on Friday night, roughly 7pm-9pm and daytime photos taken Saturday between 11am and 2pm.

    First things first, Downtown Dayton is bigger than what I remember. Lots of mid-rise buildings, a small handful of taller buildings, and an impressively low number of parking lots right in the central core. I’m not sure if they had any sort of historic preservation orders in place to prevent the razing of so many buildings, or if the market for “urban renewal” just didn’t demand it in the mid twentieth century. Either way, there’s plenty of pretty buildings to look at:

    The down side… is that they’re all empty. Well, not *all* of them, but there seemed to be many more vacancies, shuttered buildings and otherwise dilapidated/desolate structures all throughout Downtown Dayton. So it’s nice to see the historic buildings “mothballed” but eerie to see them sit empty. For example:

    From a pedestrian standpoint, Downtown was pretty desolate both Friday night and Saturday morning/afternoon. There was a bit of through traffic on the main roads, but others were virtually empty. There were no people waiting at bus stops. We saw maybe one pedestrian every block or two on the sidewalks. We walked past the convention center, and it was closed with no visibile events of any kind going on. While Downtown Columbus isn’t as vibrant as most people would like, there was certainly a huge contrast coming back into town today on Broad Street (took Route 40 the whole way back, which is a whole other story) and at Broad and High you had easily a hundred people walking around within a block in any direction, cars, busy buses, people on bikes, wedding parties on church sidewalks, et cetera. Here’s a few street scenes from Downtown Dayton:

    We did take note of some bike infrastructure throughout Downtown and near-Downtown areas. Some custom U-shape bike parking structures were placed on sidewalks here and there, there were sharrows painted in lanes on some roads, and even a pair of bike lanes on one-way street pairs running North/South through Downtown. The only down side… didn’t see any bikes using any of this stuff while we were there… but maybe it’s too cold for them?

    That’s not to say all of Downtown was desolate. There were a few spots where we saw people coming and going, mostly restaurants including Uno, Spaghetti Warehouse and the Olive “urban dive” in the former Wympee diner landmark. The Second Street Market was jam packed (more on that soon) on Saturday afternoon. The Chess Club also seemed somewhat busy on a Friday night:

    There was also some action to be found just outside of Downtown. Some nice historic neighborhoods with nice well maintained homes, and the impressive Dayton Arts Institute, which we visited on Saturday afternoon:

    All in all, it was a fun little excursion to explore a different urban area just 75 minutes west. I wish we had more time to explore, and perhaps we’ll go back next summer and hit up a few of the places we had to skip during our short trip this weekend.

    Has anyone else here on CU spent any considerable amount of time in Dayton recently (or perhaps grew up there)? Agree or disagree with our quick assessment? Has the city changed much in the past decade? I want to know more! ;)

    One parting skyline shot for the road…

    #518446

    Pickerington_Kyle
    Participant

    I was there during a saturday night last november and downtown was pretty much deserted at 11pm at night. Downtown Columbus in itself might not be busy as we hope at night, but High Street gets a lot of action. I live in Athens right now, and Court Street gets a lot of action as almost all the bars and restaurants and things to do in Athens happens along the road.

    #518447

    JB05
    Participant

    Regarding the observation of mostly-empty downtowns, it makes me think of many of the areas in NE Ohio/NW Pennsylvania. Youngstown and Sharon, PA are the towns I’m most familiar with.

    I think it was posted here the other day that virtually all of Ohio’s population growth was driven by Franklin county. The bustling, and growing downtown we have in Columbus really is a gem compared to many small/medium sized cities nearby which, well-preserved as they may be, are losing population fast.

    #518448
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    JB05 said:
    Regarding the observation of mostly-empty downtowns, it makes me think of many of the areas in NE Ohio/NW Pennsylvania. Youngstown and Sharon, PA are the towns I’m most familiar with.

    I’d agree that the overall vibe of Dayton in its layout and architecture seems to have more in common with NE Ohio than it does with Columbus. The warehouses and relics of older shipping/industry gave it more of a “rust belt” feel than what you generally find in Columbus.

    Though it didn’t seem quite as “rusty” as Canton or Cleveland in my experience, if that makes sense…

    #518449

    bucki12
    Member

    Love the building density of its downtown and the fact that most of the bones are still intact. This is anecdotal, but Dayton seems to offer decent opportunities for recent grads. I think it is a good place to consider if you are just starting out. The lack of evening and weekend downtown activity is a lot more like Columbus was 10 years ago.

    Next time you go, the Air Force Museum is a must see.

    #518450
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    bucki12 said:
    The lack of evening and weekend downtown activity is a lot more like Columbus was 10 years ago.

    Heh. While we were walking around I said to Anne “I feel like this is what it was like walking around Downtown Columbus in the early-to-mid-90s”. ;) Though City Center was still hoppin back then. The Dayton equivalent is the Dayton Arcade, which is much more beautiful than CC was, but it’s been sitting vacant for over twenty years now:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dayton_Arcade

    #518451
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    Some more info on the bustling 2nd Street Market:

    ————

    Close to Columbus: The 2nd Street Market
    Published on November 4, 2012 9:15 am
    By: Walker

    The long thin building of the 2nd Street Market provides a very linear selling place with one main corridor hallway stretching the length of the building and vendors that line both sides. There is a sit-down area in the middle of the building closer to most of the prepared food vendors, and a small event space on the east end of the building where live music can be found on the weekends.

    READ MORE: https://www.columbusunderground.com/close-to-columbus-the-2nd-street-market

    #518452
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    Some more info on the nearby Oregon District… Dayton’s version of The Short North:

    ————-

    Close to Columbus: The Oregon District
    Published on November 4, 2012 12:30 pm
    By: Walker

    The Oregon District is a small 60-acre triangle-shaped neighborhood located immediately southeast of Downtown Dayton. The neighborhood feels distinctly divided into three separate sections: a small collection of warehouse buildings on the northern edge, several blocks of tree-lined residential streets on the southern end, and the commercial corridor of East Fifth Street that bisects the two and largely defines the neighborhood to visitors.

    READ MORE: https://www.columbusunderground.com/close-to-columbus-the-oregon-district

    #518453

    NEOBuckeye
    Participant

    Walker said:
    I’d agree that the overall vibe of Dayton in its layout and architecture seems to have more in common with NE Ohio than it does with Columbus. The warehouses and relics of older shipping/industry gave it more of a “rust belt” feel than what you generally find in Columbus.

    Though it didn’t seem quite as “rusty” as Canton or Cleveland in my experience, if that makes sense…

    Dayton makes me think of a cross between Toledo and Canton, which might also make sense since Dayton is roughly twice the size of Canton and one half the size of Toledo. All three also seem to have similar downtown layouts and architecture, as well as no shortage of parking lots and old warehouses. I can definitely feel the rust belt vibe there, particularly north of downtown, but Dayton often gets left out of the traditional western rust belt running from Detroit southeast to Pittsburgh.

    #518454

    Jordans23000
    Participant

    I grew up in Dayton, probably a 7 to 8 minute drive from where most of your pictures are. After the auto industry slow down in the 80’s (I know it wasnt the first one, but its the one i remember having the biggest effect), most of the business dried up downtown, at least retail wise. In the early to mid 80’s there were corporations occupying most of those buildings like Mead paper co., NCR, etc. but like the auto industry business died down for those companies too. Mead sold paper, need I say more. I remember catching the bus with my mom to the Arcade Square, a mixed use building in the heart of downtown and going shopping, eating lunch at the fish market, and spending time at the Fountain across the street, where most working people ate their lunch. There would be thousands of people there in about a quarter mile stretch of Main St., it was pretty cool. I would compare it to the City Center at Christmas for Columbus residents, same vibe, only it was year round. Once the spending power left, like every other city in the rust belt the retail and so went downtown. You didnt see a lot of people out because its dangerous down there, especially at night. I could get into some “Tales from the Hood” stories but I won’t, just know that the self preservation mentality is alive and well in Dayton, its not like Columbus where its more of a community mentality. I still love my city, I just wish we could have changed with the times and not tried to hold onto the past.

    #518455
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    Jordans23000 said:
    You didnt see a lot of people out because its dangerous down there, especially at night.

    Really? The only danger we felt we were in was potentially getting hit in the knees with a tumbleweed.

    #518456

    Matthew
    Participant

    Having grown up in Dayton I can echo the sentiment of it being dangerous, or at least that I’ve heard that all my life. The fact is it was dangerous down there in the 80’s. There used to be a gang called the 3rd and Main gang which pretty much ruled the city for several years. I remember being down there with my mom and her being almost mugged by that group, us running with her screaming holy hell, etc. I don’t think its that way anymore but rather it is just plain dead down there which is a shame. There are lots of awesome old buildings and plenty of people who care enough to make a change and I think that’ll grow as the economy does. Another amazing tidbit is that the overhead electric trolley lines are intact and the RTA still utilizes electric busses which were built in mid 20th century. Heading west out Salem Ave and North up Main st, you’ll find neighborhoods that are close in comparison to what we have in Victorian Village, although most Victorian neighborhoods there are still very run down and dangerous. Directly to the south on Main is Oakwood which is the equivalent of Bexley. I remember the common concensus about Oakwood went something like “those people there think their shit don’t stink.”

    There are some efforts to restore the old Arcade complex, a link to that is here. http://daytonarcade.wetpaint.com/

    #518457
    Walker Evans
    Walker Evans
    Keymaster

    Matthew said:
    Having grown up in Dayton I can echo the sentiment of it being dangerous, or at least that I’ve heard that all my life. The fact is it was dangerous down there in the 80’s.

    There are people who still say that the Short North is a dangerous place today because they remember it being dangerous in the 80s. ;)

    #518458

    Jordans23000
    Participant

    Im glad you didnt run into any trouble, I guess its so desolate anyone who would want to do something bad has given up on downtown.

    #518459

    ToddAnders
    Blocked

    So, Walker is being pretty protective of Dayton, so daytonunderground coming next?

    I had my first job after graduating from OSU business school at NCR in Dayton and I tried REALLY hard to like Dayton; lived in the Oregon District, purchased a home in Oakwood. I just was too bored to tears. Could only fake it for so long.

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