UD leader: Dayton Arcade is ‘show of good faith’ to partners, community

The University of Dayton’s plans for the Dayton Arcade are part of an “evolution of the university” that the school’s president said could generate its next big partnership.

UD will work with The Entrepreneurs Center to anchor the Dayton Arcade with an innovation hub that they say will help reinvent the downtown economy and job market.

Eric Spina sat down with the Dayton Daily News on Thursday for an interview where he said he sees the building as a place where people with an idea can go for free space, maybe a desk or office and eventually use those tools to create a business with UD’s own building in the heart of downtown Dayton.

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“Every step of the way there are connection points available,” Spina said. “Whether its a space you want to have an event or its a space you want to have a meeting and have 10 investors come from across the country to hear your pitch for venture funding or a place where you can hire your first five employees.”

Naturally, any company developed in the arcade would already have a built in connection to UD, Spina said. Establishing more partnerships, like the ones UD has with General Electric and Emerson, are a priority, Spina has said.

Investing in the arcade to provide an innovation hub is a “show of good faith” to G.E., Emerson and the rest of the community, Spina said. Spina declined to disclose how much money the university is prepared to invest in the hub or pay as a tennant.

“The outlook here is very long term,” Spina said. “I have enough trust and confidence that there’s a lot of good ideas on this campus and in the community.”

UD will seek to get Sinclair Community College and Wright State University, among other interested institutions, involved in the innovation hub, Spina said. Together, Spina said the colleges will be able to create a “locus of creativity and innovation.”

Without buy-in from other nonprofits, businesses and colleges, the innovation hub Spina envisions would fail, he said.

“We can’t do everything at UD,” Spina said “We could try to do everything but we couldn’t be good at everything so we’re going to pick those areas where we can really contribute and then we want to partner with all the educational institutions in the area.”

Talk of an innovation center began in October at UD. The hub at the Dayton Arcade follows a number of other universities that have similar spaces in place to aid creativity and inventiveness.

But, UD is moving forward with the hub because it’s what the university and the community need, Spina said, and not because of the trend in college-sponsored business incubators.

“We’re going to do it in Dayton in a way that works for Dayton,” Spina said. “We’re not going to do what Durham did, we aren’t going to do what Pittsburgh is doing…it’s not going to work if all the pieces aren’t in place.”

Providing a space for students and community members to come together and get creative is part of Spina’s overall goal of making UD “a university for the common good.” It’s why UD has tried to revitalize property in need of new tenants such as NCR’s land or the Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

UD announced in December that it would purchase the fairgrounds with Premier Health. The deal on the property is expected to close this month but UD and Premier will not take control of the land until October.

Spina on Thursday dismissed rumors that UD is planning a new arena for the fairgrounds, or any other location for that matter.

“We’re not going to build a new arena,” Spina said. “I mean, if someone gives me half a billion dollars there’s probably a lot of other things we could do with it anyway. So, no, we love our arena.”

UD and Premier still haven’t determined what they’ll use the land for and Spina said they wouldn’t make that decision before they talk to people on and off campus about it more. Whatever does end up on the property will be something the Daytonians want or need.

“We’re going to be thoughtful,” Spina said “We’re going to listen carefully and we’re going to do the right thing.”


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