Filling up: Retail returns to downtown Dayton

Downtown Dayton was once a premier shopping mecca of the Miami Valley.

But in recent decades, many longtime retailers in downtown closed up shop for good or fled to the suburbs. This lengthy list includes the Metropolitan Clothing Co. (closed 1984), Lazarus (formerly Rike’s, closed 1992), McCrory Stores Crop. (closed 1997) and Elder-Beerman (closed 2002).

But parts of downtown are seeing a small-scale renaissance of first-floor retail, including the Oregon Historic District and the areas around the Cannery Loft Apartments and St. Clair Lofts.

All available first floor commercial space in the St. Clair Lofts is fully occupied and the owners are building out the last remaining retail space. The St. Clair Lofts opened in 2001, but this is the first time demand for commercial space has been great enough to build out the unfinished space, officials said.

The Lofts’ existing businesses are thriving because downtown is bustling, and it will get even more vibrant with some investments and new amenities that are on the way, said Kim Larkins, property manager of St. Clair Lofts.

“That’s going to be a prime spot with the Levitt Pavilion moving in over there,” Larkins said, referencing the new outdoor music amphitheater that will be built less than a block away at Dave Hall Plaza.

RELATED: Retail, restaurants lead business activity downtown

Dayton for years has struggled to battle vacant storefronts in the center city.

But the amount of occupied first-floor commercial space in the downtown area has increased about 15 percent since 2010, and now nearly three-fourths of the available space has tenants, according to the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

All of the available first-floor space in the Oregon Historic District that is ready for move-in is occupied, the partnership said.

Retailers in the Oregon District say business is good. Heart Mercantile, which celebrated its second anniversary Oct. 2, has expanded, moving part of its boutique into a storefront just a few doors down.

RELATED: Beloved Oregon District business Heart Mercantile is expanding, moving

Also, about 95 percent of first-floor space in the area around the Cannery lofts, on the 500 block of East Third St., is occupied, the partnership said.

First-floor occupancy in the Central Business District is still low (63.4 percent), but there have been gains.

In 2016, 54 percent of businesses that opened in the downtown district were restaurants and retail, compared to 23 percent in 2013, according to data from the partnership.

“It’s remarkable the amount of space we’ve been able to fill downtown,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

It’s not been all good news on the retail front. FedEx Office at 6 S. Ludlow St. closed Oct. 20.

RELATED: Downtown Dayton business closing its doors

The St. Clair Lofts’ commercial space is in demand like never before, local officials said.

The Lofts is a five-story, 108-unit apartment building at Fourth and St. Clair streets.

Construction is beginning on about 2,700 square feet of unfinished retail space on the southern side of the building, on the 100 block of East Fourth Street, next to Gem City Key Shop. The space will be split in two.

The building already is home to Twist Cupcakery, Salon J Ladner & Spa, Linwood Men’s Specialty Shoppe, Soccer Shots, Gem City Key Shop, Puff Apothecary, Anthony James Painting and Baker Salvage.

Twist celebrated its second anniversary in June, and Salon J Ladner moved from one space in the Lofts building to a larger one more than two years ago. Linwood’s has been in the Lofts since 2014 and Soccer Shots opened in 2016.

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