Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Rehabarama & Urban Triage

The recent Rehabarama at South Park has received some attention in the local blogs. Esrati had a pretty good discussion going, For the Love of Dayton has touched on some of the political attention this is getting, and Gem City gives a brief recap of a visit.

I posted on Rehabarama at Urban Ohio, but perhaps a broader discussion on the concept of Rehabarma, historic districts, and urban triage.

Here are the historic districts around downtown that still need work. Two districts, McPhersontown and Oregon, are not shown as they are more or less finished. One neighborhood, Fairgrounds, is not really a "historic district", but is being treated as one.
As there are seven districts, doing an annual Rehabarama and assuming a different neighborhood each years, means a 7 year cycle before a neighborhood can expect another rehab event.

That's too long.

Here is an excelerated schedule. Assume two Rehabarmas a year, one in the spring and another in the fall. And balance out the neighborhoods (or not, maybe adjacent neighborhoods could have a year; for exampel St Annes Hill in the spring of 2009 and Huffman in the fall, or vice versa).

I like the balance idea a bit better though:

By doing this quick schedule a historic district could be seeded with new renovations every five years, to build on ongoing renovations. Rehabaramas could also be targeted to sub-areas of a neighborhood that are not seeing that much rehab work. An ongoing law enforcement and code enforecment effort could also be implemented as a social service support to the renovation effort.

That way the historic districts can be brought back quicker.

Why just historic districts? Accept that Dayton is a dying city. Perhaps not dying because no large city in the US has ever really died, but just shrinking quite a bit.

This means resources (i.e. tax money) is limited and declining. How to allocate?

Focusing on historic districts ringing downtown is a form of urban triage, saving places that can be saved, mainting places that cant, and letting places die that are beyond saving. Lifeboat ethics for urban decline. Or an urban Noah's Ark to save representative types of architecture and urban environments.
Cold as it is, it sounds good on paper. But the realpolitik is that no politician or bureaucrat will ever admit to such a strategy in public, nor it would not be feasible given the amount of voters in the dying neighborhoods.

A more realistic, less cynical concept would be to use the Rehabarma "rehab seeding" to expand historic districts.

Example being the Inner West area. One historic district, but a set of nearby areas that could use help. Use mix of new infill housing and Rehabarama rehabs to ratchet up the interest and activity in these areas (which are already seeing remodelling and infill construction).

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Dayton Banana

Borrowing a concept used in EU regional/economic planning…the “blue banana”…and applying it to the new spatial order of suburban Dayton.

The Dayton Banana represents the arc or banana shape of new suburban population growth, retail development, and office/industrial/high-tech expansion at or beyond I-675. The Dayton Banana is the reordering of markets and economic activity in the region into a linear city, with concentrations at both ends.

The easy and central access to markets and a skilled and educated workforce, provision of large floor-plate office & industrial space, and plenty of free parking makes the Banana the optimal location for most types of enterprise.

Living near the Banana provides a variety of employment opportunities, reduced commuting time, and a convenient and wide choice in services, shopping, food and entertainment options.

Taste the bananan. I'ts unpeeled for you via this virtual tour.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A bright spot in downtown nightlife: J-Alan's

It's hard to believe J-Alan's is only two years old. They are celebrating the birthday next weekend.

In reality the space, as bar, is older. Back when I moved here in '87/'88 this was called the City Club or City Cafe. It was a very upscale cocktail lounge with easily the best interior in Dayton for a drinking establishment. Designed by local award-winning architect Dale Smith, the place had a sort of Richard Meier/New York Five aesthetic, but not in white. Instead it was in dark green and with warm brass and wood trim accents (including a wood wine rack over the back bar), plus a wall of framed theatrical and art posters and Playbill covers (a sort of premonition of the future Schuster Center?).

The City underwent changes in ownership & clientele, and over a decade of hard use transformed the space.

Bits and pieces of the original interior remain, however, including the brass bar, aspects of the ceiling treatment and the big framed "Freddys under the arches" photo, hiding the electrical panel.

But that was then and this is now. J-Alans has become yer humble hosts favorite post Schuster performing arts event "after-the-show" cocktail lounge. The place is kitty-corner across Ludlow Street from the Schuster stage door, and certainly livens up a somewhat dead part of downtown.
There is a stage area in front, as J-Alans has become a good venue for live music. They also host the Brown Street Breakdown blues jam on Tuesdays. The pix below was from the Reggae Fest afterparty, so they had a larger group of players, so moving out into the floor area a bit:
Great mix of folks here and an active, happening feel to the place.
The bartenders usually don't dance on the bars, but if it's a good night you never know....
(for more pix of this particular evening at J-Alan's click here)

Kettering Anti-war Demo @ Stroop & Far Hills

Tip o' the lid to Left of Dayton for turning me on to this pix-0p:

This shows two corners;t demonstrators were at all four.

Whether you agree or disagree with their politics one has to admire the local anti-war movement for being savvy in their choice of locations to protest at. Having a demonstration at, say, the Federal Building or Third and Main, on a Saturday afternoon, would gaurantee invisibility. Suburban locations like this one are much better.

Incidentally, I noticed a lot of horn-honking supporting these folks' message.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Pre-Halloween weekend in Dayton

All on the same night!

This one is going to be good . The old Front Street mill district is probably known to all as a place for artists lofts, but there are little gallery spaces too, and occasion music events. Here's one:

...this appears to be in part a benefit for the local Food Not Bombs group (bring a can of food) Note also the art show prior to the music (hope it continues while the bands are playing).


Also on Saturday, local glampunk outfit Luxury Pushers have their CD release party at Canal Street Tavern. Show starts at 9 PM. Supported by Accidently On Purpose (Dayton) & Lollipop Factory (Columbus)


For the culture vultures this well-know Mozart opera introduces the figure of Don Juan. Presented by the Dayton Opera at the Schuster Center ( yer humble host will attend). Sung in Italian with those projected "supertitles".

Then there is that annual big Halloween party on 5th in the Oregon.

And it's a full moon this weekend, too!

Downtown Dayton: Bottoming out?

Revisiting the County Buisness Patterns again, this time for a smaller geography..the zip code area. CBP has data by zip code, too, but it doesn't have all the detail as the county-level, due to confidentiality concerns.

Yet some basic numbers are available, showing aggregate numbers of employed, payroll, and number of private sector buisiness establishments. The number of establishments per NAICS sector and subsector are also provided.

The geography in question is "downtown"..really the central area, covering downtown, Oregon, Webster Station, and some light industrial areas stretching along the rivers east to Findlay and south to Stewart. How has it fared over the years?

The first basic measure is how many private (and non profit) buisness or organizations are in the area, up or down. Pretty clearly the trend is downward, on either side of a big drop between 2002 and 2003.

Then, in aggregate private sector employment and payroll. Employment is key as it shows a pretty stable situation (fluctuation within a range) until the numbers drop out of range, then another projected decline for 2006 and 2007 to account for NewPage, Woolpert, and others leaving downtown (and an uptick in 2008 when CareSource opens).
Comparing the above to Montgomery County, one sees how economically insignifigant downtown is to the economic life of the metro area. If downtown was to disappear it would not be missed by most people in this area.

Getting into some detail, we only have numbers of establishments as payroll and employment data is supressed. In terms of numbers nearly every NAICS sector is declining, with growth in just a few.

Taking a look at some of the smaller growth sectors.

One can see the best trendline is in "information". Other sectors are education services and the arts. I inserted a trendline in the arts category just for grins as this is one of those creative class areas that are becoming of interest.
Opening up that information subsector. We are looking at very small numbers here. It seems the best upward trend is in info tech. In fact a lot of this is in ISPs. One can see a downtown with lots of empty and cheap office space might be appealing to this type of business.

Two categorys that one usually associates with the street level in a central business district: can see it is very stable (very slight decline) in food and drink establishments: restaurants, short order places, bars, nighclubs, etc. Since there is a gauranteed stable office worker base coming from government in this area, one can see this sector will not really drop anymore. This is the bottom, the baseline from which to grow.

Retail trade was pretty stable, too, but has dropped and has some ups and downs in recent years. Not sure where that is going, but one can infer that retail in the central area is pretty close to bottoming out as well.

Professional, Scientific, and Technical Establishments in the Central Area.

The sector with by far the most establishments in Professional, Scientific, and Technical (PS&T), showing a real roller coaster, but general upward trend.
And the breakout by subsector. Wow. Look at Legal Sevices!
Before we look at legal, some of the lesser subsectors. Starting the period with Engineering and Architecture (and it is mostly Archictecture as there are very few engineering establishments downtown) at the top, then the ascendancy of Accounting and Consulting, and the rise and then decline of computer programming and systems design (which displaced Architecture as the number two PS&T subsector in 2001)

Unfortunate to see computer servics drop like that as this is one of the growing areas in the county. The central areas share of this buisness is just very weak.
Then that big legal sector. An overall decline of establishments, but a remarkable concentration of them downtown. Even with a three decline in downtowns share, this remains the dominant location for law offices, no-doubt due to wanting to be near the courts.

As the dominant PS&T subsector (and probably dominant over all other sectors) the location of law offices downtown would be important to the economic viability of downtown office space. The decline in the number of these establishments should be of concern.

In some respects the central area is bottoming out. Interesting to note that some of the growth areas, though in small numbers, are in information and the arts, and the concentration of law offices and architectural practices in this area. This would seem to indicate that the central area might be a good creative class buisiness location. Yet, there was that hopefull growth and then decline in computer services.

I think, just from ones experience of the area's nightlife, that this is one of the only places where there is a concentration of bars that host live muisc, and especially original music of various types. This might be a base from which to grow additional venues.

That's one type of bar. Another type is the homosexual bar or disco. Of the 7 gay/lez bars in Dayton, 5 are in the central area, so clearly a downtown concentration.

Which seems to indicate downtown would be a good central location for "one-of-a-kind" things that cater to very narrow or specialized customer or client basis spread out over the metro area..things like foundations, specialty retail, social services, performing arts, etc.

And a possible role as creative class playground.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Plugs for Pugs

Being an old Chicago guy, the opening of Pug's Dog House was cause for celebration for me. A real, no-kidding Chicago hot dog stand right here in Dayton! You can find it at the Wilmington/Irving interesction in the Shroyer Park area, in a little strip center just south of the Wilmington Place old folks home.

Places like pugs were all over town, and into the suburbs. No chains, just indy operations.

Pugs is quite authentic. The place has it all...Chicago-style hot dogs, which I am sure most of you have heard of, but also "tamales" (which are not real tamales but a sort of street food version unique to Chicago), and the hard -to- find (outside of Chicagoland) Italian beef sandwich. They have other things, too, like Polish sausage, etc...but I go there for the hot dogs and Italian beefs.

If you go to Pugs order the "City Dog", as thats the hot dog with all the works, including the peppers. But remember, there is no ketchup on a Chicago hot dog!

(And try the Italian beef, too).

Which begs the question about Dayton local street food or local foodways. Whats' special about Dayton? Pancake houses and breakfast places seem to be a local thing. The stewed tomatos at Pine Club and the garlicy dressing they used to have at Domnics. Anything else, I wonder?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dayton gets in touch with its hipper side.

Masquerage ranks right up there with the Reggae Festival as the Dayton event where I ask myself "who are these people and where do they come from?"

Some very brief preliminary pix from me. Venue was deliciously rustbelt: "The Fabulous Ruins of Dayton" (that are still standing). Fabulous describes the entertainment, catering, and, of course, the people and costumes.

Interesting crowd mix, no? OK boys and girls, can you say "diverse"? Good, I thought you could.

For an excellent documentation the Dayton Daily News photog did a great job of playing paparazzi

Check out his set.

Some of these people look like they could be from a party in Hollywood or Manhattan...but maybe that was the idea, as the theme was "1970's" (meaning glam, Studio 54, and things like "the downtown scene"...but maybe that was more '80s?).

Anyway. Something different. It would be great if Dayton actually had a nightclub like this (I guess that was the Foundry?), or better yet, travelling club nights in empty warehouses and factorys...something like this but maybe smaller?

Monday, October 22, 2007

More on the Death of Dayton's Busy Streets

Just a quick follow-up to that Warren Street post.

What I looked at Brown and Warren was the physical destruction of the urban fabric. Related to that is the economic destruction of neighborhood retail.

I did a study on this for the Saint Anne's Hill area, as part of a larger look at this neighborhood (one of my favorites in Dayton). I looked at what was in the buildings, as well as the ongoing demolition, coming up with a sort of commercial history of the place, at least starting in 1914 or so, when the criss-cross directory started.

I looked at corner stores, but also at 5th Street from Stivers to the railroad. A street we don't think as having much trade.

I did an in-depth block by block look, using color coding for types of business and doing a history of each surviving storefront.

As a summary, I ginned-up this diagram, showing the distribtion of buisiness on 5th at different snapshots in time. Left side is Stivers/Blomberger Park/High Street, right is the railroad. I put in Henry Street for reference

It almost looks like DNA strands. Maybe this is the commercial DNA of the neighborhod?

One can see the numbers of buisnesses on 5th through the years. The concentrations on either end of 5th are visible, and then the decline as business thins out, ending up with the near death of retail on 5th in our time (as well as substantial demolitions).

Why did the busy streets and neighborhood shopping districts die out?

In this case a lot had to do with changing ways of retail and services, such as the disappearance of certain types of buisiness, as well as people using the car to go to the suburbs for shopping (I think suburban shopping hit the neighborhoods as well as downtown).

Maybe neighorbood poverty had an impact, too.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Destruction of Warren /Brown Streets

This blog is subtitled "Urban Nihilism from Dayton Ohio". So here is some.

* * *
South Park developed first out Warren and Brown Streets, but later on Wayne. Nowadays the "front" of the neighborhood is seen as along Wayne Avenue. In the past the neighoborhood was focused more to the west, with a neighborhood commercial district developing at the intersection of Brown/Warren/Wyoming.

According to this zoning map the business district was still mostly intact in 1980, and some of it was still there when I moved to Dayton, with a used bookstore in an old commercial building at the corner of Wyoming and Brown.

By 2007 this buisiness district had been nearly totally removed. In fact, since 1980, a substantial amount of the building stock on Warren has been removed. Maybe 50%?

With the renewed interest in Brown Street and the Fairgrounds and South Park neighborhoods I had some hope that some the old commercial buildings left on Brown would be rehabbed. Driving down on Brown I noticed this.... continuing down Brown and Warren. The pix are captioned and tell the story.

This situation isn't just South Park. Neighborhood buisness districts in Dayton are an endangered species. Since 1960, on the West Side, the Washington Street district (between the bridge and Cincinnati) has been totally destroyed, and almost everything on W Fifth.

Tals Corner and especially Troy/Valley/Keowee are probably not long for this world.

St Annes Hill lost nearly all of two neighoborhood districts, one on 5th between, roughly Stivers and LaBelle, and at 5th and the railroad.

There are probably more examples that I don't know about. And then there are the busy streets that become more and more suburban due to the type of buildings on them, and the way they are set to the street. Salem Avenue from the river to, say, Grand, is an example of that.

* * *

And, since I was in the neighborhood, a look at how much is lost or is going to be lost in "Lower South Park"...the demolitions, combined with the vacancys and board-ups. Perhaps this is what Twin Towers or other close-in areas will look like in 15 or 20 years?