Development officials see growth in downtown

A new survey shows businesses are feeling better about the core of the city.

With projects like the Dayton Arcade building momentum, Dayton officials and business owners say downtown is inching closer to a new reality — one bursting with a revitalized commerce district, entertainment and ample housing.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership released the results of its annual business survey, which assesses activity in the city. More than 450 business communities participated, and results showed about 78 percent of them felt downtown Dayton was better off than three years ago.

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That was up from the 65 percent who felt that way in last year’s survey. About 36 percent of those downtown businesses expected their number of employees to grow in 2017, and 60 percent expected their number of employees to stay the same, according to the survey.

“It’s great to see the progress that’s happening downtown,” said Sandra Gudorf, Downtown Dayton Partnership president. “It’s exciting when news breaks about a new townhome being built, or a new restaurant opening, or when a new business announces it’s moving downtown, but we want to make sure that growth is happening in a way that’s impactful and sustainable.”

The businesses that participated in the survey also found it was most important for the region to: support startups, activate first floor storefronts, fill vacant office space and add housing options. Other important initiatives included developing the Arcade and working on signage and lighting.

The Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, which tracks the progress on public-private initiatives that target development in the core of the city, started back in 2010. According to data collected from the plan, approximately 43 new businesses opened in 2016 and more than $619 million worth of projects have been completed in the city.

Another $614 million worth of projects are in the pipeline, which totals to a nearly $1.25 billion investment in downtown investment. Apartment complexes like the Water Street Flats and Delco Lofts are on their way to completion, and other developers have plans underway for new bars, restaurants and entertainment areas.

Most notably of late, the Dayton Arcade has received support from major entities like the University of Dayton and The Entrepreneurs Center — two organizations that have agreed to occupy more than 80,000 square feet of space in the downtown complex.

And with more than 110 new startups popping up since 2011, several development entities are trying to build a network of opportunities for young companies. Scott Murphy, DDP’s vice president of economic development, said several partners are bringing events throughout the year that promote entrepreneurship. Earlier this week, startups were able to meet with lawyers for free consultations about starting their businesses during a coworking session at K12 Gallery & TEJAS.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, which is why we keep track of progress and constantly measure outcomes,” Gudorf said. “The results from our annual business survey and the update from our progress points in the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan have helped reassure us our efforts are on the right track.”

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