Voices: UD investment in arts center fosters community, campus connection

A rendering of the University of Dayton's proposed center for the arts at East Stewart and South Main streets. CONTRIBUTED
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A rendering of the University of Dayton's proposed center for the arts at East Stewart and South Main streets. CONTRIBUTED

Richard S. Krysiak Jr.
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Richard S. Krysiak Jr.

Jason Pierce/Contributed
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Jason Pierce/Contributed

The physical design of the proposed University of Dayton Center for the Arts is intended to create another productive connection between the institution and the community — a place where student concerts, art shows, dance and theater performances can be seen by city residents and local arts groups can showcase their work for UD students.

The University’s $40 million investment at the corner of Main and Stewart streets will allow us to continue our commitment to revitalize vacant and unproductive former brownfield properties we purchased from NCR more than 15 years ago.

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Designed in consultation with local arts organizations to complement ― not compete with ― existing venues, the 51,000-square-foot center will help make arts more central to campus life and learning, improve our ability to recruit students interested in the field, and foster creativity and innovation among all our students.

It will include a 400-seat concert hall for musicians and groups such as our Ebony Heritage Singers and World Music Choir; allow theater, dance and performance technology students to innovate in flexible space; better prepare media production students for tomorrow’s jobs in radio, TV, digital and print media; and offer a new, state-of-the-art venue for local arts groups.

We have long been committed to cleaning up and repurposing the former NCR land we purchased in 2005, and our investments have kept sustainability and the environment in mind. The proposed Center for the Arts is designed to meet LEED-gold standards, signifying the project meets high standards for a “green,” sustainable building.

The specific location and plans for the building allow us to maximize usage of our campus open spaces and are carefully designed to preserve the band practice field directly to the east, an outdoor classroom that is an integral element of our music education program and is optimally located adjacent to music department facilities at Fitz Hall.

While the design requires removal of five non-native ginkgo trees along Main Street that are too close to the proposed building and would not survive construction, our plans also include planting 57 native and adaptive trees, along with other landscaping. Maples will line Stewart and Main streets, providing shade and beauty for pedestrians and motorists. At the time of planting, our trees — Red Sunset Maples, buckeyes, Scarlet Oaks, and other native varieties — will be larger and more mature than is typical for newly planted trees, and will grow and flourish quickly.

The University takes pride in our living, green campus and approaches it with a sense of stewardship, mindful that the care we give today will shape the future of our urban forest. Our respect for the living environment is evident in how we care for the thousands of trees — including dozens of NCR-era ginkgos — that enhance campus and line our streets.

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The arts center will continue and extend our commitment to revitalizing the South Main Street area, drawing visitors to small businesses and supporting development plans for the onMain district. It will build on investments that have brought new jobs, research and community partnerships to the area, including the $53 million GE Episcenter, the $35 million Helix Innovation Center, and the 1401 S. Main building, home to three community-building organizations.

We are asking for community support for our current plans for the Center for the Arts. While we do not discount the value of the existing trees, we firmly believe that this new gathering space, combined with the robust landscape plan, will bring new life and possibility to an unproductive plot of land and will represent greater value to our community.

The Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, who started the Society of Mary, which in turn founded the University of Dayton, counseled that adaptation and change are essential in facing the future. Looking to the future, we see this adaptation and change in the creation of a vibrant place of community connection and creativity, where native trees and young aspirations flourish and grow together.

Jason Pierce is dean of the College and Arts and Sciences and Richard Krysiak is vice president for facilities management and planning at the University of Dayton.