Dayton Main Street overhaul takes cue from Chicago’s ‘Magnificent Mile’

Parts of Main Street in downtown Dayton may start to look more like they belong in downtown Chicago following a series of sidewalk and streetscape upgrades.

The city of Dayton will be improving the sidewalk along Main Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, as well as a perpendicular stretch of Fourth Street, bordering Dave Hall Plaza.

The plan is to remake Main Street to be more like Chicago’s famous section of North Michigan Avenue, called the “Magnificent Mile.”

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Dayton is unlikely to attract the fancy kinds of shopping, dining, hotels and other businesses that call North Michigan Avenue home.

However, the streetscape overhaul is intended to greatly enhance the road’s appearance and pedestrian experience to support current projects and lure new investment.

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“The streetscape is 25 years old and aging everyday,” said John Gower, CityWide’s urban design director.

No one would confuse downtown Dayton with downtown Chicago.

But Dayton officials would like to — taking a page out of Chicago’s playbook — transform the dull, gray streetscape of the city’s main commercial spine to be more attractive and colorful.

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On Wednesday, the city of Dayton accepted a nearly $392,000 federal grant distributed by the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority. The money will help pay to improve the sidewalks on Fourth and Main streets around Dave Hall Plaza.

One of the primary goals of the project is to improve pedestrian connections between Dave Hall Plaza and Main Street and enhance the walking experience, according to local officials.

The improvements are timely, considering the plaza starting in September will be transformed into a $5 million music venue called the Levitt Pavilion Dayton.

On Tuesday, supporters of the music pavilion announced they have officially raised the money needed to build the state-of-the-art amphitheater, which will host at least 50 free shows every year.

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On South Main Street, deteriorating precast pavers and sidewalk installed in 1993 will be replaced, and a series of at-grade planters will go in between the walking paths and curb, officials said.

Four planting beds are going in that will be adorned by low fences, similar to the streetscape improvements on East Fifth Street in the Oregon Historic District.

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“A lot of pre-cast concrete pavers are nearing the end of their useful life-cycle,” Gower said.

Streetscape furniture should be added to the northeast corner of Fifth and Main streets, and above-ground concrete planters may get new canopy trees. Plans call for expanding the Fourth Street sidewalk, likely doubling its width, in part to provide parking for food trucks during Levitt pavilion performances.

Plans are to revamp additional sections of Main Street, between the river and U.S. 35, in coming years, as downtown’s resurgence progresses.

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The Magnificent Mile was a deliberate attempt by Chicago planners and leaders to beautify Michigan Avenue.

The streetscape project transformed 33 blocks of the street from an unbroken expanse of concrete into an “explosion of color and an ever-changing urban Eden,” according to Chicago-based firm Hoerr Schaudt Landscape Architects, which oversaw the work.

Plants are switched out multiple times a year, depending on the season.

Chicago is the third-largest city in the country. Dayton barely breaks into the top 200.

The Magnificent Mile is a very popular tourist destination, offering high-end shopping, entertainment, galleries, theaters, museums and a huge variety of dining options.

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Main Street is not expected to get these kinds of attractions. But Chicago officials credit their streetscaping work with attracting new investment, activities and foot traffic, and Dayton is trying to replicate that success, albeit on a smaller scale.

The South Main Street corridor next year will have a music pavilion that attracts 100,000 or more people downtown, and multiple parts of the surrounding area are targeted for redevelopment.

The owners of the Centre City Building, at the northeast corner of Fourth and Main streets, are working to convert the structure into housing and first-floor activated spaces.

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A block away, the Dayton Arcade is moving toward becoming new housing, retail, restaurants and an innovation center.

City officials say the Main Street corridor downtown hopefully one day soon could become a walkable, dense, vibrant and livable district that is a magnet for young professionals, millennials and baby boomers.

They envision sidewalk cafes and dining, and a variety of ground-floor shops and commercial uses.

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