Friday, February 27, 2009

Planning a New Downtown... Greene County. In 1965 or 1966.

The mid 1960s was when I-675 alignment was set, and was the time the WSU campus was aquired. And it also was a time when western Greene County had a planning authority working on land use and community planning for Beavercreek and Bath Townships and the city of Fairborn. A true attempt at regional, cross-jurisdictional thinking.

As part of the planning effort an area plan was developed for the new university district, which also bordered Wright-Patterson AFB. At that time the college was called Miami University-Ohio State University Dayton, sort of like IUPUI (Indiana University-Purdue University Indianpolis). The cumbersome name was soon shortend to Wright State.

The area plan was interesting in that it shows full interchanges at three locations on Ohio 444, indicating that this was still an important highway. Another interesting feature is how the interchanges work with the adjoining surface streets, and the one interchange that led direct into the campus from I-675, not OH 844.

The little two-lane Zink Road becomes a big four lane highway, and New Germany/Trebein is realigned to permit a greenbelt between it and I-675 (which as we know did not happen).

The area today, quite a bit different. But the alignment intent of holding I-675 away from Colonel Glenn Highway to make the land a development zone did come to pass, as it was shown in the zoning, as a strip of commercial development.

And a close-up of the heart of the area, showing how the campus was planned out and actually integrated somewhat with surrounding development.
The integration isn't that sucessfull today, but the somewhat modernist/commercial feel of the campus buildings blends in with the surrounding spec office complexes so one could misread the campus as just another office park. Some nice touches is aligning the parking access on the west side of the campus with the roads of the office park south of Colonel Glenn and the access to the big box Meijer store west of campus.

Not shown on the aeriel is the very recent transformation of New Germany/Trebein Road into the four lane Pentagon Parkway, lined with new office and hotel developments and apartment complexes. Still a lot of open space there, though.

Perhaps whats' interesting here is that planning for growth was happening so early, 20-25 years before things really took off at this location. Today, this is one of Dayton's most vibrant and booming edge cities, a true new downtown.

Global Rythms 89.5 FM 2:00-4:30

You may be wondering how in the heck I knew that 9CC was playing at the Dub Pub and had a pipe band as an opener?

Why ,through the indispensible Global Rythms show on the DPS radio station. A great way to start the weekend. I found out about this show quite by accident, and have been listening for a few years now.

The hosts, from right to left, Hippy, Jay, Skuz.

Somewhat talky but a lot more entertaining than Bill Cunningham. The playlist is a mix of celtic and world music. They also have a myspace page with various celtic/folk artists as freinds (including the Dropkick Murphys...impressed!)

Nine Castle Close @ Dub Pub

Dublin Pub, Saturday the 28th, tomorrow (or today if your reading this tomorrow)

This is yet another celtic act from Dayton, a newer band. I first heard them at the Celtic Fest last year. Check out their website here.

They are more on the celtic-rock side and do original material as well as those celtic standards.

Openers will be the local drum and pipe band.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Toward a Shrinking City Plan

For Dayton readers, something for you to participate in, as a way of figuring out how to deal with the increasing amount of abandoned property and vacant land in the city

It says RSVP, and its a month a way, but just a heads-up to interested partys living in the city.

I do like the positive "green" spin they are giving to a situation that is really creeping Detroitification.

Busy Weekend

The end of February, that strange numbered month, is a busy time. On Friday at Canal Street Tavern there is French/Algerian guitarist Pierre Bensusan. The former folk music show host on WYSO used to play him a lot.

...and all the rest are on Saturday:

And now for Something Completely Different!

Rock and Wrestling.!Two punk bands play while pro wrestlers wrestle, all on the second floor of the Aquarius gay bar (drag shows on the first floor if you want a break from the upstairs action). I guess this is the preformance version of the porn shop next the church supply store. Or something like that.

Active Dayton provides the full story here: Get Rock Music and Wrestling at One Event

Music and Art. What's not to like?

Check out a newish venue this Saturday by going to see Northwest Ordnance (love that name!) at South Park Tavern. This is one of those Buddha Den shows. And note the cover:

But wait! There's more!

C2 Open Studio is the last of the Front Street galleries and usually shows art by local younger outsider artists. This is a great little venue, a simple industrial space that usually has some interesting shows with art at reasonable prices.

So its possible to get rock, wrestling, and art as part of a whirlwind gallery/pub crawl. And finish it up with a drag show. Dayton, oh so boring.

DDN Blogging on City Limits and Population

Editorial page writer Martin Gottlieb has two opinion blog posts on the recent Forbes ranking of Dayton as one of the top five emptiest metro areas.

The first post on Daytons small geographical size affecting it's rankings generated a sorehead comment about how Dayton didn't want to annex Kettering. A good antitidote to this persistent urban legend (and blame-the-vicitim rationalization) is this Dayonlogy post from a year or two ago: Legends of Annexation, which will set everyone straight on the real story on how Dayton was shut out of Oakwood and Kettering.

The second post is on how Dayton's population is a small % of the county population. If one adds Greene County to this (and Greene County is an integral part of the metro area) Dayton's share of population drops to 21%. Add Springboro, Tipp City, Waynesville, and Franklin and the % might even drop below 19%. Which shows how peripheral the city is the life of this region.

The post makes this good example (since I'm familiar with it):

On this score, Dayton is at a huge disadvantage compared with other cities in Ohio as well as several other cities we tend to compare ourselves to. For Louisville, KY, 36% of the county population is within the city limits. This 7% difference is likely very significant as the suburbs you pick up are very likely made up of moderate to high income earners which would significantly impact any city to the positive side.

This was indeeed the case in Lousiville, as areas similar to Oakwood, Southern Hills, and the older parts of Kettering are within the city limits. One could say, though, that this was the case in Dayton, too. Neighborhoods on either side of Salem are somewhat equivilant to middle and upper middle class areas in Louisville's Highlands (and places like Mount Lookout and Observatory in Cincinnati). Coming into the early postwar era substantial parts of northwest Dayton were fairly affluent.

Of course, what happened in Dayton was white flight, and the Salem corridor (and now North Main) became Dayton's second ghetto (though parts of Dayton View along Cornell Avenue are still fairly affluent).

So, racial change had a lot to do with Dayton losing its middle/upper middle class population.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Please Shoot Yourself (I'll Load the Gun)

As was posted below, the recommendation was to drop the Austin Road arena, leaving a city site as a possibility. The Dayton Dail News has reported that this is indeed what the County Commission has voted.

And the paper also opened its online comments section. Predictably its about as negative as always. You can read the goings-on here (and note there is finally some pushback by other reades against the grouches)

One comment just struck me by its utter miserableness and nihilism, prompting the post title.

From "Siobahn":

Dayton is an armpit, plain and simple. There is no success in downtown Dayton; it is filled with abandoned buildings, thugs and thieves. To say there are plenty of activities in Dayton and the surrounding suburbs is a lie. Adding a hockey arena will not make this place any better, it will just add another subpar point of interest to the list of already lame “things to do” around here. I regret the day I ever came to Dayton, and will certainly rejoice the day I leave.

Honey, Cincy is just down the road if Dayton Life just too much for you and you need a break.

Monday, February 23, 2009

No Arena at Austin Road?

It's increasingly likely that this won't happen

The DDN reports that the county administrator is recommending against an arena due to cost and lack of financing options (the lack of a hotel tax to subsidize the arena).

The argument that an ice rink would somehow make Austin Road more attractive to business was always questionable. There might have been an indirect effect of the arena drawing in food and drink places which would then draw in business, but this was never explicitly stated. The case was never sufficiently made by the county or RG Enterprises as to how this was to actually work as a lure for business to chose Austin Road over other I-75 interchanges.

The focus will now shift to try to build a downtown arena on Dave Hall Plaza, and one can anticipate finance being an issue, too, if the intent is to build something more than an enhanced pre-engineered building.

Blues News You Can Use

There's more in Dayton than rock. There's roll. No, wait....

...check out this upcoming event this Saturday:

Looks great if you are a blues fan. Being held at Gillys. Note that one of those on the Bill is Snapper Mitchum. People who've been around a while will recall Mitchum having a blues show night over at the old Night Owl, back when it was smaller. Mitchum returned back to Chicago, but is back in town for a bit and is having sort of a re-union show over at J-Alans on Sunday:Link
Should be good. J-Allans is also home to Brown Street Breakdown
...blues band that has a standing gig there on Tuesday nights for most of March.

Back to the Dayton Blues Society. The ones sponsoring this coming Saturday's show. This is apparently a fairly new group. They have a Blue Sunday blues jam, or had one, on a monthly basis at different clubs, including across the river at the Ware Banquet Center in Edgemont. Pretty cool thing going on here.

On a personal note yer humble host was never a blues fan until he moved to Sacramento and started going to blues jams over at the old Sams Hofbrau on J Street. This was hosted by John Heartsman, veteran of the Oakland scene. There I got hooked...ok maybe not hooked but I learned to appreciate this music more, enough to go out and hear it more. Heartsmans' jams brought a lot of local talent out of the woodwork, resulting in a small blues fest starting up in "River City". So an example of how a scene can build. Link

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Freindless Dave Hall Plaza

...just a thought:

Is Dave Hall Plaza that unpopular that no one is organizing to try to save it? Or even vocalizing much of a protest or regret?

Or has the notion that this is bit of urban greenery is temporary been sufficiently internalized within the body politic so that plans to remove it are met with a shrug?

Tech Towns' Changing Plan

Tech Town has a new plan. This is probably old news, but it makes official the removal of the historic Frigidaire loft factory as well as removing certain landscaping, parking, and site planning features.

Here is a comparison of the original "nice-to-have" plan, and the latest "closer-to-reality" plan (you can click on it to enlarge)

And the changes, keyed to the numbers on the upper map:

1. Removal of parking structures and replacement with parking lots. On the Webster Street side the screen offie building is removed and the lot is open to the street (behind a tree screen)

2. Removal of walking path following the old railroad siding to the river. This was sort of a neat feature, esp. since it was a landscape reference to the orginal site use.

3. Redesign of the riverfront park. The original design focused on the old Frigidaire plant and seemed to have more elaborate boundary conditions. The plan has been simplified and the focus is on a proposed amphitheatre. Not too bad a change, but we'll see if this park is really developed as nice as even the revision.

4. Removal of contextual building forms. This was really unfortunate as the concept seemed to be to mimic the massing of the orginal Frigidaire buildings with new structures, which was integrated with the lanscape via the railroad spur walkway. Instead the design defaults to a standard spec office box form.

5. Demolition of the old Frigidaire loft factory. Cost too much to restore to offices so they demolish it. One of the cooler features of the orginal design replaced with large floor plate facility. Oh well. (Not sure how tall that new building will be).

6. Water features replaced by parking.

7. De-emphasis of central mall and highly detailed open space in front of the former Frigdaire loft factory. Since the centerpiece of the design has gone away the open space in front doesnt have to be as special.

One could probably say more. Here is the revised design, enlarged:
Still something a cut above the generic suburban office park for this region, but probably not too different from the quality of site planning one finds at Research Park (which this complex will be competing with). The proposal seems to be evolving into a denser version of Research Park, set on a grid.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Canal Street Tavern: "...A Special Place..."

I'm sure more than a few readers have visited Canal Street Tavern at least once. It is indeed a special place. For me this is a Dayton sacred space, where the genus loci is particularly strong and concentrated.

A special place. That is what Eric Cassidy of Shrug said from the stage last Sunday, to the owner Mick Montgomery. And it is very special. One of the places that make Dayton.

The occasion was the Songwriters-in-the-Round event. I've been to these once a long time ago.
The idea is that a group of singer-songwriters sing one after the other and then cycle through again, saying a bit about their song before performing. There is some interaction too.

I've seen this approach used at Mountain Days, so it must be a familiar approach.

The first set was Jesse Remnant, Alec Delphenic, and Eric Sommer from ...somewhere else; he's a touring muscian. I'm pretty sure I've seen Sommer before, at the Night Owl, about two years ago. He's not visible here in this pix, but does this sort of bluesy style, similar to Chris Whitley. Instead that's Jesse Remnant on the right, who is a pretty good songwriter for a young guy (his brother is in Southeast Engine, a band that is getting a lot of interest regionally, and Jesse has a band, too). Alec Delphenic came out of the Muscians Co-Op open mike nights on Tuesday, but has a band, too.

The next set was pretty suprising. From left to right, Eric Cassidy, Heather Shelton, and Jordan Hull (behind the column was Ben Schwab). I know Shrug played an acoustic set at the openening of Stone Soup Cafe (which never really opened), but I'm not sure Cassidy was there. He was quite good here, doing a cover of "Fame is just a pretty Girl". And Jordan Hull is already getting a big repuation. But it was Heather Shelton, with her great voice and delivery and somewhat melancholy songs that caught my ear.

I think this is held once a month, so if anyone likes singer-songwriter things and checking out local and visiting talent this would be worth your while.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Walking the Nickel: A First Look

The Nickel being West Fifth Street, west of the river. The black buisness district.

The black business district was a feature of African American urban life, probably best known in places like Atlanta, with Auburn Avenue, but also in other cities too. Dayton had one on West Fifth, developing as this neighborhood evolved into a black ghetto.

The map below shows West Fifth (shaded in yellow) as it was in the late 1940s. There was a buisness district on West Third, too, which is pretty evident as the built-up area on the upper part of the map.

An in-depth analyses is in progress, but will take some time as this was a fairly complex development evolution, with a lot of building subsitution and mixed use (not really that evident at first glance).

But here is a first look, doing a count of residential and business addresses from the city directory, as well as vacancy showing how this street grew.

The bar chart shows five year intervals for the early years as this was the period of the Great Migration (starting in 1910), with a big increase in migration from the rural South to the urban North. In Dayton there was also an informal Jim Crow policy keeping blacks out of downtown public accomodations. There might have been a relation to the increase in business on Fifth during the same era.

Then there was the first big drop in the 1960s, which was an era of riots and also freeway construction removing the eastern reaches of the Nickel.

After 1970 vacancies and demolitions increased until the street was all but gone by 1990 (and it is completely gone today except for maybe three or four buildings).

Another look, showing trends by type of use. It's interesting to see the residential numbers drop during the postwar era, even before the 1960s disruptions. Businesss use was pretty stable for 30 years after 1930, but crashing after 1960.

This is interesting as it could mean there was increasing poverty in the black community, thus less disposable income, due to jobs starting to disappear. But it could have been just a simple thinning out of an overcrowded neighborhood as new neighborhoods were opened to black settlement.

The first black postwar expansions was new housing on empty platted land off Lakeview, Germantown and McCall, in the late 1940s. The first large white area opened in the postwar era was Westwood, in the 1950s, and this corresponds with a decrease one sees between 1940 and 1960.

The tale of black expansion and white flight is another story, but one can see how it might have had an effect Fifth Street.

Next, a few posts looking at the Nickel in detail; the world of social clubs, pool halls, shoeshine parlors, barbershops, movie theatres, churches, all the richness of an urban neighborhood of the early and mid 20th century.

The Good News about Austin Road

What more can be said about Austin Road?

That the interchange will finally be under construction.

Buried in this article about downtown interests complaining about the hockey arena proposal is the good news that the bids have been opened and the low bid was well below the estimate:

The Ohio Department of Transportation has opened bids on the interchange project and expects to award the work next week, according to Denise Heitkamp, a spokeswoman for ODOT's District 7. John R. Jurgensen Co. of Cincinnati submitted the apparent low bid, $22 million, Heitkamp said.

Jurgensen's bid came in nearly 20 percent lower than the state estimate of $27.5 million.

Of course the fate of the proposed arena is up in the air. But whatever happens those of us who live in the Centerville/Washington Township/Miami Township areas will now have a "back door" to the interstate system without having to be hung up in traffic at the Dayton Mall and I -675 exits.

At least until the expected development takes off, which won't be for a few years due to the economy.

A Practical Proposal for the Arcade

It's looking more and more like an Arcade adaptive re-use is unfinanceable.

If Dayton was a larger city or had a more robust economy this might be do-able. And if Dayton had strong and creative political leadership this might be do-able. But Dayton has neither.

And the Arcade complex is obsolete. It was built as a public market and shopping arcade in an era when the central business district was the undisputed economic center of the region due to interurban railways and streetcar lines focusing on the center city. In fact one of these interurbans had ticket office and waiting room in the Ludlow Street building.

But those days are long gone. The complex is functionally obsolete and long past the end of it's economic life. And the Dayton region doesnt have the economic or political capacity to accomplish an adaptive re-use.

A practical solution would be to demolish the complex and replace it with transient parking.

One might protest that there is already plenty of parking downtown. In reality this parking is not necessarily near where occasional visitors downtown would need to park. The Arcade property is.

The following graphic shows the situation:

The red color is Bob Shifflers property. None of these buildings has parking but some of them, particularly the Kuhns Building, does see visitors stopping off for business appointments (particularly the AIDS foundation). The blue are government buildings. Of these the auto liscense and title office in the Reibold would get people who might need mid-term parking longer than whats available on the meters. The orange are private sector properties of various kinds. Of particular interest is 40 W 4th, which has a medical adminstrative tenant and especially One Dayton Center which has the Wright-Patt Credit Union and will soon have 5/3 Bank. Add to that the lawyers offices on the upper floors.

So there is a large cluster of activity around the Arcade site that would draw people in for appointments or buisness visits that might last longer than the short term parking provided by the street meters. So there would be a real demand for transient public parking on this block, and perhaps even reserved daily parking for the tenants in the Shiffler properties.

It seems the best option for the Arcade is, when all is said and done, another parking lot.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Arcade Goes on the Block, Schiffler not Bidding.

It looks like another page is about to turn in the sorry history of the Arcade

The DDN reports on the pending auction of the Arcade complex for back-taxes...and be sure to check out the always entertaining comments section for a healthy dose of urban nihilsm.

We knew it would come to this, but the twist is that the person many thought would be the sole bidder, Bob Schiffler, will not be bidding. Schiffler owns adjacent properties between the Arcade and Main (Kuhns, McCrorys, and the recently aquired 25 S Main sliver high-rise) and the failed Schwind renovation across Ludlow.

The thinking was that Schiffler was going to put together a adaptive re-use deal. Instead it turns out Schiffler wasn't able to interest a large tenant to make the project viable. So Schiffler is out of the picture (but still next door).

Instead a Chicago developer expressed interest during one of the downtown planning sessions. And a trio of Dayton people, one involved in the entertainment/attractions industry, has resurfaced with a plan to turn the arcade into an family entertainment complex.

Check out their blog for more info: The New Arcade Dayton

So, next installment: a bidding skirmish (I wouldn't call it a war) for the Arcade, and a new owner.

Should be interesting.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What a $37M Arena Looks Like

As promised in the previous post some pix of what an arena looks like that's in the Dayton price range.

This is a multipurpose arena in Bloomington Illinois, on the southwest side of their downtown.
The price was $37M, with 6600 seats, say $5.7K/seat. Even though there are more seats this is still a higher price per seat than the Dayton proposal. The costs are 2005, so there might also be an inflation factor to were this would cost more today.

Since there are no good pix we'll have to use birdseye views.

Looking west, this is the "front" of the arena, sited off a busy street. It looks like there is a low parking structure on the upper left of the pix, behind the twin high-rises.

Looking south, this elevation faces a busy street.
Looking east, we see the Dayton Convention Center big blank wall effect + loading area, in this case facing a somewhat residential street. Parking structure to the right.
And, finally, looking north. Not sure what that cul-de-sac is about (secondary drop off point or parking garage access?).

As we can see this is the big-box approach to arena design. They are all big boxes but some have more minimalist exterior treatments than others. The best part of the building is the entrance, which does have sort of a presence on this busy street leading out of downtown Bloomington. Plaza could work for lines waiting to see events.

This side is a good example of a not very pedestrian freindly design, though the designers do liven up the wall a bit with those big windows.
What was proposed for Dayton looked good in the illustrations, with the nice glass walls turning the building into a big lantern at night, combined with an exposed structural system giving the facade some depth. But can it be build for $30M?

What should happen is that the city and county should go for a quality structure and not cheap-out on the construction costs, so we get something more like what's in the illustrations, not a big concrete or metal skin box.

Financing Issues

The financing needs to be thought out and revenue projections realistic. The case study of a problem situation is again Bloomington. The arena was funded via a bond issue, probably revenue bonds. These kinds of bonds are retired through revenue from the improvement or facility. In this case revenue wasnt enough to cover the debt, so the city was either tapping into their general fund to meet its bond payments (according to wiki), or was considering an increase in the property tax (according to a Youngstown Vindicator article on arena finance).

Whatever happens, if we are to lose Dave Hall Plaza it should be a fair trade.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ice Arena on the Agenda

Todays front page story has put the arena issue on the public agenda. Where to put it and do we even want one?

Not being a sports fan I could care less. As posted below I lament the loss of Dave Hall Plaza and don't want to look at some big ugly box downtown, especially since I won't have a reason to go inside.

So my main concern is that the building look good, be a quality piece of architecture.

Dayton being Dayton, the city of cheapskates, people who want the arena downtown defend the option as being the cheaper solution. This establishes "cheap" as a criterea for the project, not quality design befitting a civic improvement. Historically this was not the case in Dayton as public buildings of substance and style, like the Courthouse and Memorial Hall, were erected here. Probably the nadir in Dayton public buildings was the Convention Center and associated Parking Garage, a truly repellant building esenemble.

Since these two buildings will be on two sides of the proposed arena maybe it isn't that big a deal to add a third dog to the other two.

Comparable Arena Costs:

We've seen the cost comparisons a previous post New data requires some revisions, and one can see the Dayton proposal is the lowest compared to similar arenas. It's interesting the Austin Road proposal estimate is more in line with the Toledo arena, which is under construction. The Bloomington arena comes closest in cost per seat (though these are 2005 prices), so it might be worthwhile to see what it looks like.

Dayton Dave Hall Plaza: $30M, 5700 seats

Dayton Austin Road: $60M to $100M, 7,000 seats,
$8.6K to $14.3K/seat

Toledo: $105M, 8,000 seats

Bowling Green, OH : $36M, 5000 seats

Plus two other arenas:

Youngstown: $42M, 5,700 seats

Bloomington, IL: $37M, 6600 seats (2005 construction)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Anti-Valentine Show...

The show was headlined by Dark Backward. Active Dayton says this band is made up of veterans of the local scene, including former members of Luxury Pushers and Dementia Precox. Also playing was Jasper the Colossal and My Latex Brain.

Jasper the Colossal

I heard the end of a set by this four-piece awhile back and was impressed by what little I heard. So I wanted to catch a full set. So I came early to this show, and wasn't disappointed.

This outfit rocks!

Longtime readers of this blog know that yer humble host was a big fan of the Professors.
Well, JtC doesn't do that kind of rock but they do have that level of oomph in their performance and delivery and just plain getting into the music (and an equally charismatic lead singer). They did mostly original music (good tunes, good feel for a certain indie rock style. You can hear the punk influence but this was more tuneful).

Near the end of the set they did a rocking cover of an old Proclaimers song 500 Miles, really punching up the song a notch or two compared to the orginal. This band knows their music...that that's in their repetoire was a good sign. Impressive. Maybe one of the best younger bands in town.

Next was My Latex Brain. This band had a more political/punk thing going..though I can hear maybe a bit of Nitzer Ebb and KMFDM industrialism here, too. A three piece with a keyboard they really connected with the audience.

Then the headliner. Dark Backward. Impressive local pros doing the more rocking version of New Wave perhaps, but more on the, say, Iggy Pop / Eno /Roxy Music side of things. Like that old Who song sang: M,m,m, my generation. So it was pretty cool to hear an updated version of that sound. Visit them at myspace.

Don Thrasher is providing excellent coverage of the local scene for the DDN/Active Dayton. Here is his report on the show, with more dark background on Dark Backward.

Where to See Them Next:

(these are derived from the bands' myspace page, current as of today)

Jasper the Colossal:

22 February (Sunday) 5 PM: Dayton Dirt Collective

26 Feburary (Thursday) 8 PM: Jimmy's Cornerstone

12 March (Thursday) 9 PM: The Pearl

My Latex Brain: (didnt see a show list)

Dark Backward:

14 March (Saturday) 9 PM: Oregon Express

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dayton: America's Fifth Most Empty City

Behind all the hoopla about the hockey arena and "Greater Downtown" is the reality that Dayton is a shrinking city at the center of a stagnant metropolitan area. If one has been following this blog over the past year and half one will know all about this as 'emptying out of the city is recurrent theme (and check the thumbnail pic to the left for a sample of board-up land). Though we think of this as an city issue, take a drive out Salem Road or down Kauffman in Fairborn to see how suburban shopping centers have gone vacant, too.

This "news" is now national as Forbes has ranked Dayton as Americans 5th emptiest city based on homeowner and rental vacancy rates.

From Forbes:

No. 5: Dayton, Ohio

Rental Vacancy Rate: 21.7% (second)

Home Vacancy Rate: 3.6% (tied, 15th)

Average Rank: 8.5

The other 4 are

1. Las Vegas

2. Detroit

3. Atlanta

4. Greensboro

(the tie was for housing vacancy was with Cincinnati and Charlotte)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Comparing Arena Costs

Here's a look on what an arena might cost based on some real-life examples from up I-75 a ways.

This is the new Lucas County Arena (pix from Dayton Most Metro) smack dab in the heart of downtown Toledo, a few blocks from the Mudhens' new baseball park. This is a true multipurpose arena (but designed to accomodate hockey) designed using "green" design features.

8,000 seats. Cost around $80,000

In nearby Bowling Green, the new basketball/volleyball stadium (with some other spaces for conferencing and such) for Bowling Green State University.

5,000 seats. Cost estimated at $36M

Then there are the Dayton proposals.

The Austin Road arena and event center is projected at $60M, but the number of proposed seats is unknown.

The Bombers proposal for Dave Hall Plaza:

5,5000 seats. Costs $30M

Taking a look at cost per seat

Toledo: $10,000/seat

Bowling Green: $7,200/seat

Dayton: $5,454/seat

Austin Road: ?

While it looks like Dayton is the cheapest, it probably is a low ball estimate and "cheap" could mean el-cheapo, too.

Comparing price ranges again:

Toledo: $80M

Austin Road: $60M

Bowling Green: $36M

Dayton: $30M

Doing this right, maybe a quality facility with some design innovations, would put the cost of a stadium at Toledo's range, $10K/seat.

Assuming 5,500 seats for Dayton: 5,500 seats x $10K/seat = $55M for a Toledo-style facility downtown, sort of in the Austin Road price range.

If this area didn't have such dysfunctional and shortsighted political leadership and better planning we would be following Toledos lead and building a quality multipurpose arena downtown.

The Toledo arena was funded exactley as Austin Road was proposed to be funded, via a countywide hotel tax. But unlike Dayton county and city officials apparently worked together to site the stadium in the heart of downtown, which is what most normal citys and metropolitan areas do (Grand Rapids is another example of a center city arena with minor league hockey).

Too bad, huh? We could have had something like what Toledo's getting.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Destroying Dave Hall Plaza for a Hockey Rink

...though advocates say this will be also a multi-use "event space" and minor league practice rinks.

The most influential Dayton blog (Esrati) and forum (Dayton Most Metro) are for this. You can read the comments yourself by surfing into the links (images are from Esrati). I made a few comments myself, somewhat favorable.

My real feelings on this are "It won't look that good" and "Too bad for Dave Hall Plaza".

I don't think it will be as attractive as the renderings make it out because things get diluted to a certain level of mediocrity, after which the locals play this "Emporers New Cloths" game and say isn't it all so wonderful. So expect all the nice glass walls to turn into concrete or some other solid wall suface (due to budget issues or other reasons). What will happen is that the convention center be repeated, one block north.

And everyone will say Hooray! Downtown is active! Since a rationale for this site is that it would "activate" downtown (and being next to that big parking garage). Maybe, if visitors can get over their fear of the city enough to actually leave the building (aside from travelling to and from the parking garage).

As for Dave Hall Plaza, the rationale is that the green space will be replaced somewhere else downown.

I don't think so.

Dave Hall Plaza has what any new park or open space does not have.

Mature landscaping.

The park was landscaped in 1974, meaning the plantings date back 30 years or so. This what gives the park its charm and makes it a pleasant place for the three outdoor music events staged there every year . Yet its not the landscaping. Its the that there is this play of soft greenery and old highrise architecture around the park, where the park frames and compliments the buildings, which become landscape features themselves.

This landscaping was supposed to be temporary and the park was a form of landbanking. And it looks like the time has come to make a withdrawl from that metaphorical bank. The Price of Progress.

The summer festivals (the reggae festival is in the pix) will either end or relocate. This will be a loss, but maybe only to a relative handfull of people like yer humble host, who likes listening to music and going to festivals, but really likes this on Dave Hall Plaza due to the landscaped green environment contrasted with the surrounding buildings.

Public Finance for the Arena

This is the clincher. If the arena is to be a regional draw the tax base needs to be regional, meaning Greene as well as Montgomery County.

The way to do this is via a public authority like the Conservancy District that transcends county lines. This authority would be given the power to levy taxes, fees, and issue bonds to build and operate the arena. Tax souces would be a hotel tax (as was proposed for the Austin Road arena) or a sales tax (as was done for the Cincinnati sports arenas).

Comparing Loft Rentals with Area Rentals

The US Census came out in 2000, around the time the two big loft rental projects were underway. This permits one to do some comparisons with the reported rents and what the Census was showing for the rental market.

First the census establishes sizes of rental units: No Bedroom (ie studios or efficiencies), One, Two, and Three or More bedrooms. Then it counts the number of units (based on a sample) by gross rent by size of rental unit, allowin a distribution by price range.

For the no bedroom and one bedroom units in Greene and Montgomery County on can see the following distributions:

Media reports were giving $450/mo and $550/mo for studios at the Cannery and St Clair Lofts. The media also reported a later (2003) $550/mo for one bedroom rentals at St Clair.

Distributions for two and three bedrooms, and the reported asking prices for two bedrooms at St Clair and the Cannery. The media report St Clair Lofts backed off from its original $1,100/mo asking price.

As one can see one could get a three bedroom rental for less than a one or two bedroom rental at the two downtown lofts.

Combining the sets into a grouping, one can see most rentals where between $300/mo and $749/mo
Now, lets take a look at two suburban edge cities which would be competetive with downtown for rentals as well other things.

These areas that had a lot of apartments and a young adult population: WSU/Fairfeld Commons area combined with the Springboro Pike/OH 725 areas (Dayton Mall and points south and east. This area would be more upscale (so one wouldn't see slum rentals pulling the prices down) and closer to white collar work, so perhaps the same or similar market for loft housing, and the distribution does skew higher, with the St Clair rentals being pretty much in line for one bedrooms but a little higher for the two, but still within range.

Taking a closer look at price ranges. These graphs look at price ranges within unit sizes, or what % of a unit type fits within what price range. One can see the two bedroom rentals for both St Clair and Cannery fall into the upper price range, with most units in Montgomery/Greene Counties below $799/month.
Looking at the comparable edge city suburban areas, one sees that the St Clair is pretty much right in the $500-$799 range for one bedrooms, competetive for this type of unit, and slightly higher for two bedrooms. Backing off that intial $1,100/mo rental really moved St Clair into the more reasonable upper end of the two-bed rental market.

The Cannery is not exactley off the chart, but its in the very top for two bedroom rentals, which might be edge city house or condo rentals, not all apartments.

The Cannery is actually pretty competetive for studio/efficiency rentals for this market, what little there are. Presuming these are fairly new units, not slum rentals, the Cannery is a good deal if one wants an urban option.

Those reported occupancy figures of 90% for St Clair Lofts really makes sense now, as one can see this development was right in the same price ranges for the newer rentals out in the edge cities, though one could have gotten a better deal for a two bedroom in suburbia.