Sunday, February 17, 2008

Finishing Fifth Street

The push is on to finally “finish” The Oregon, and by this is meant Fifth Street. Money is being committed to kick-start an arts district, with a mix of private (new galleries) and public (city funded rationalization of parking). Quite a bit on this at Dayton Most Metro and DaytonOS. Dayton Daily News arts critic Terry Lawson also had an article on the plan.

Fifth was always unsatisfying, never reaching its potential of being Dayton’s version of Cincinnati’s Ludlow Street in Clifton, Louisville’s Bardstown Road or Frankfort Avenue, or the Short North in Columbus.

Oh sure there were the nightclubs, some which are becoming the ground zero of Dayton’s active indy music scene (and hosting touring acts to some extent). There were the funky second hand stores and better restaurants. The hip hair salon and the tatoo parlor. And the one coffee shop over at Pacchia. And things like Sterling Studio.

But the street never really gelled for some reason, never quite reached the intensity of use one would expect. Given the hostility some of the Oregon district residents this semi-vacant state seemed to be preferred.

But the image for visitors and newcomers to Dayton was somewhat lame, of a place that couldn't really get it together.

To put it bluntly, Fifth was half-ass.

Here are some examples, things that should be addressed if Fifth Street is to reach its potential, things that that make yer humble host think "gee, what's the issue here?"

Porn Shops & Vacant Storefronts

Does this neighborhood really need three porn shops? Yes they are historic as a memory of Fifths skid row era,, but seriously where is the architectural value?

With their whitewashed facades and bright lighting they do light up the street at night, in a tawdry yet sad sort of way. And one seems to bill itself as gay, or, more accurately, as a straight persons idea of what gay is all about. No self-respecting gay person would go to this place.

And there is the one that seems to be colonizing the abandoned “Fifth Street Retail Store” next door (nice building, great arched windows, huge ceiling, but what a waste).

The Retail Store isn’t really a “storefront”, but that’s another problem: vacant stores.
These sad sacks are right at entrance to the district; the intersection of 5th and Brown. One wonders why these wouldn’t be good for something other than emptiness and what looks like a window blind covering the big storefront.

An the most prominent example is this Victorian to die for, looking like something lifted from San Francisco or Northern California and dropped onto Fifth. Vacant ever since I moved here, 20 years ago, probably more. Why?

Occupied, sort of.

Maybe one shouldn’t be too bent out of shape about these buildings. They are being used, but by office functions of various sorts. Meaning the generous storefronts are visually dead and not activating the street

And another example. A law office. No problem there for the upper floors, but couldn’t this excellent little corner store be used for something else? And note Bonnet’s next door. For years I thought this was another porno store as it looked so secretive…just a big green board and batten wall with discrete door, “Bonnets Books”(yeah, right, what kind of books?). Only recently did I find this was an innocent used book store

So some examples. As one can see this street still needs a lot of work to be really filled out by ground level uses that will activate the street and cause people to want to come here, aside from the nightlife, which is actually quite good.


Anonymous said...

The gem of the block- the old morris furniture building- can't be occupied under current building codes- you need parking- can't have parking unless you tear something down- can't tear it down- because it's historic- so instead- the building rots.
The residents resisted any new liquor permits. They fought Pacchia,they fought a hip little organic vegetarian place called "What you eat" which finally got a permit- and then sold it to "The Blue Moon"- they fought Thai 9- and they fought the Fifth Street Wine and deli.
The porn places- are all afraid to do anything to the outsides- since the historic zoning ordinances give the city the ability to screw with them- so they leave it alone. They're still smarting from Capizzi's law taking the doors off the booths.
They don't want the headaches. Same goes for the pawn shops.
The EPA takes up the huge old dance hall- and is a total waste of a great space.
It all comes down to parking, zoning, and unhappy residents-
solve those- and we'll finally have the entertainment district we should have-
Kudo's to Mike and Mike for trying with the arts thing- but arts don't usually bring tons of cash- so, we'll see.

Anonymous said...

"Finishing" is the perfect way to say it. A lot of the issues David mentioned are revolve around communication, whether between business and residents, residents and the city, or the city and business. This sort of public/private partnership with the $$$ to back it up is the only way Oregon will completely fill the niche that it is perfect for it.

Anonymous said...

If we want this to be a true arts district with respectability and tourist money, the porn shops have got to go. I'm sorry, but they are an absolute blight on the street and make it seem far less respectable and unsafe than it really is. I do NOT dispute their right to exist, but if you are truly looking to zone an area as an "arts district," you need to decide what "arts" you're going for.

Admin said...

In Boston during the eighties we witnessed the 'gentrification' of blighted areas one by one. Concentration was placed on one block at a time with street improvements and facade grants. The buildings, (many vacant) were slowly bought up, rehabbed and occupied with mostly residential and corner retail. As each block became well on its way to be self sustaining the city would begin on the next one. Over time this area SE of the Hancock Tower became the destination for young professionals. One did have to be careful not to stray too far south of the zone because the negative elements of blight and crime were seemingly right around the next corner. The gradual effort has paid off over time and a broad area has gentrified.