IDEAS: Dayton Arcade’s rebirth ties our inventive past to a future of innovation

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Dayton Arcade to reopen this week after 30-year slumber

Bruce Katz, a leading urban redevelopment expert, calls the rebirth of the downtown Dayton Arcade “the most transformative project in America.”

That’s not hyperbole.

This once-crumbling iconic landmark is once again beating with new life and restored hope. In a stroke of imagination and resolve, the $90 million first phase of its renovation ties the region’s inventive past to a future of innovation.

The University of Dayton and The Entrepreneurs’ Center invite Daytonians to take a virtual tour and hear the vision of community leaders and developer Cross Street Partners at the March 4 grand opening of The Hub Powered by PNC Bank at the Dayton Arcade.

The three-story glass-domed rotunda has been refurbished with 468 panes of energy-efficient glass. With plans for restaurants, shops, offices, event space, artist lofts and a “shark tank” venue for business plan competitions in the atrium, the Arcade gives the vibe of a glorious future. This spring, Crafted and Cured, Café Blanca Noir and The Contemporary will open their doors in this space.

University of Dayton President Eric Spina
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University of Dayton President Eric Spina

At nearly 100,000 square feet, much of The Hub overlooks the atrium. This innovation center is already pulsing with the anticipation of hundreds of creative people — from budding entrepreneurs from across the Miami Valley to student makers and creatives — sharing space, collaborating and learning from each other daily.

I can envision students picking up coffee and a bite to eat from The Hub’s café, a student-run enterprise featuring a menu curated through the Greater West Dayton Incubator, before walking through Innovation Hall to an entrepreneurship class, a capstone course in sustainability, or studios for painting, printmaking and graphic design.

Along the way, they might pass a fledgling start-up company, the satellite office of a Fortune 500 firm, and professionals from every walk of life working in shared offices and conference rooms. In the Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation — an incubator for social innovation — students and faculty from a variety of majors will invite community leaders to creatively brainstorm new approaches for battling problems like the opioid crisis or food insecurity. In the L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, students will start their own micro-companies as they learn lessons from local entrepreneurs working in offices down the hall.

While university-anchored innovation hubs are popping up around the country, this will be one of the largest and most ambitious, thanks to the indefatigable spirit of community leaders and the imagination and perseverance of a team of creative, collaborative minds who saw beyond the disrepair, worked through the complex financing — and envisioned a renaissance.

It’s a renaissance worthy of being called “the most transformative project in America.” And it’s a renaissance that’s here.

Eric F. Spina is president of the University of Dayton.