Big changes are in store for a 1.3-mile stretch of Wayne Avenue in Dayton that already looks very different today than it did a decade ago because of millions of dollars in new investment.
Empty storefronts and commercial spaces have been filled with popular new dining and drinking destinations, and Wayne has become a coffee trail with four coffee shops located blocks apart.
The street is home to an eclectic mix of businesses, ranging from a pet groomer to a medical marijuana dispensary to a botanical shop, and more new stores, housing, bars and services are on the way.
The old Daybreak facility is expected to become new apartments. An old machine shop could become a new salon, while a small retail store could become a bar.
A former Dollar General is being turned into a new health care center.
A section of the street could become part of Dayton’s first designated outdoor refreshment area, allowing bar and restaurant patrons to carry their beers and cocktails outside.
Wayne Avenue has changed so much that the city wants to widen one part of the street and put another section on a “road diet” to improve the pedestrian and driving experience.
“I think what you are seeing is the evolution of Wayne Avenue into a place, rather than just a way to get from one place to another,” said Tony Kroeger, Dayton’s planning manager. “Wayne Avenue in and of itself is becoming a place.”
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Wayne Avenue is about 3.1 miles long and stretches from downtown to the north to the Belmont neighborhood to the southeast.
The northern part of Wayne Avenue has transformed in the last decade, but especially in the last five years, because of new businesses opening up, including Press Coffee Bar, Oregon Tails Pet Salon, the Dayton Theatre Guild, Wheat Penny Oven & Bar, Belle of Dayton and Crafted & Cured.
A few years ago, a Kentucky-based developer rehabbed a vacant old plumber supply building at 210 Wayne Ave. into new apartments called the Wheelhouse Lofts.
The ground floor of the building is home to a Speakeasy Yoga and the popular Troll Pub at the Wheelhouse restaurant and bar.
A new competitive videogaming business called Connect E-Sports plans to move into the building and hopes open this spring.
The business, expected to occupy about 1,900 square feet of space, will offer a mix of ways for people to play and compete in video games on computer and gaming consoles.
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Weyland Ventures, a developer from Louisville, Ky., proposes investing about $120 million to support 730,000 square feet of new development in the area called Oregon East.
Weyland Ventures’ plans include constructing 153 new apartments at the corner of Wayne Avenue and East Fourth Street, on the former Garden Station property, just north of the Wheelhouse.
Weyland Ventures also owns the now-vacant St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church at 239 Wayne Ave., which it hopes to redevelop into new uses.
Newer additions and more to come
Redevelopment of commercial spaces along Wayne Avenue continues to spread south of Fifth Street, and semi-recent additions include the Van Buren Room cocktail bar, Strawberry Fields medical pot dispensary, Boujee Bee Boutique, Glasz Bleu Oven and other offerings in District Provisions, the "European neighborhood market" that is home to Crafted & Cured.
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A new business called Lucid Salon has applied for a commercial building permit from the city to reuse a former machine shop at 530 Wayne Ave. as a hair salon. The building is across the street from Crafted & Cured.
Wayne Avenue has attracted a lot of independent retail because the road is very walkable from neighborhoods like the Oregon District, South Park and Twin Towers, said Kroeger.
Wayne Avenue “has its own personality,” Kroeger said. “Wayne Avenue is a unique corridor — there aren’t many like it.”
The Oregon District Business Association has applied to create Dayton’s first designated outdoor refreshment area centered on Fifth Street, which would allow people to take alcoholic drinks in special containers outside onto the street.
The section of Wayne Avenue from the the railroad overpass down to Jones Street, by Crafted & Cured, is included in the proposed outdoor drinking area boundaries. The city could take action on the application this month.
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Wayne Avenue also is a go-to place for caffeine-lovers.
Last summer Reza's cafe opened in a 100-year-old building at 438 Wayne Ave., just a couple of blocks south of Press Coffee Bar.
Just a few blocks south of Reza's is Wholly Grounds, which is a coffee shop that opened in late 2018 in the former Lindy's dog treat bakery. Several blocks south of that is Ghostlight Coffee, which opened back in 2011.
Wholly Grounds, which also serves some alcoholic drinks, re-purposed the old dog treat bakery that it acquired from Daybreak, a nonprofit that helps homeless youth.
New apartments, medical care in South Park
Last year, Daybreak also sold its facility next door to Wholly Grounds to Vander Home Investments, which belongs to a local entrepreneur.
In recent years, multiple groups wanted to buy the facility, located at 815 to 817 Wayne Ave., to reuse it as a residential treatment center or halfway house.
But the South Park neighborhood opposed the projects and they failed to move forward.
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Daybreak worried it would be unable to find a buyer since the facility had such a unique and challenging configuration leftover from its longtime use as a shelter and transitional housing.
But owner Margie Harrell is working to convert the facility into six apartments.
Harrell said she hopes that construction will begin this summer and the units will become available in mid-2021.
Most units will be 1,100 square feet and will have two bedrooms, two bathrooms and open living and kitchen areas.
“It isn’t going to be simple — it’s almost a complete redo,” she said.
Harrell has lived in South Park since July 2018 and has fallen in love with the neighborhood.
Harrell said she wanted to do something positive and impactful for her neighbors.
The project, so far, seems to have received a much warmer welcome from neighbors than previous proposals for the property.
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The Dollar Store at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Wyoming Street closed a few months ago, and some South Park residents were not sad to see it go because of what they say were ongoing problems with trash, a lack of maintenance and public safety concerns.
The property is being renovated into a new location for Oak Street Health, which is a network of primary care centers that serve adults on Medicare.
Oak Street Health, which did not return repeated requests for comment, says it operates under a “value-based managed care model.”
Wayne Avenue also will look different in the future because of infrastructure changes.
Wayne streetscape to change
The city of Dayton has a request for proposals out for a professional surveying firm to create right-of-way for three projects, including the widening of Wayne Avenue from Wyoming to Waldo streets.
The city was awarded nearly $1.9 million for the project to install a fifth lane (a center turn lane) to try to reduce auto crashes, because that part of Wayne has a high accident rate and traffic has increased some in the last decade, said Keith Steeber, Dayton’s city engineer.
The project is scheduled for 2024.
The city also hopes to receive an award from the Miami Valley Region Planning Commission (MVRPC) to put Wayne Avenue on a "road diet" from Fifth Street to U.S. 35, Steeber said.
The Wayne Avenue project is recommended for an award of $350,000 in MVRPC Transportation Alternatives Program funding, with funds anticipated to be available in state fiscal year 2025, the organization said.
The project will install bump outs to define existing parking areas on the street, repair broken curb, walk, curb ramps and driveway and will add pedestrian lighting.
Many people do not realize they can park in the right lanes of Wayne Avenue, south of East Fifth Street. The project will formalize the parking and make crossings easier.