Since launching the Great Places in America program in 2007, the Washington D.C.-based planning organization has recognized 245 neighborhoods, streets, and public spaces around the country, including Hyde Park and the village of Mariemont in the Cincinnati area, German Village in Columbus, and Shaker Boulevard and the West Side Market in Cleveland. This is the first time a Dayton-area neighborhood, street or public place has been selected.
Such a designation represents “the gold standard in terms of having a true sense of place, cultural and historical interest, community involvement, and a vision for the future,” the APA said in a release.
The APA wrote that the quarter-mile of East Fifth Street through the Oregon District “is a multi-modal corridor with bike share stations, bus service, pedestrian-focused design, and an array of locally owned businesses among the street’s restored historic buildings.
“The area was slated for a large-scale urban renewal project that would have removed the historic homes and buildings, but a public-driven campaign sought to preserve the historic significance of the street and concentrate instead on revitalization and restoration,” the APA said. “Fifth Street today features a span of rehabilitated 19th and 20th century commercial buildings and some of the Oregon District’s signature character features, such as ornamental lighting, stamped concrete crosswalks, and landscaped sidewalks.
“The street is home to the monthly First Friday celebration, a free community event highlighting local art and entertainment, as well as Hauntfest, Taste of the Oregon District, and a variety of other events, nightlife, and attractions.”
Mike Martin, president of the Oregon District Business Association, said the award is the culmination of plenty of hard work over several years among several groups, city and development officials and individuals.
The recognition from the APA will help bring even more businesses to the Oregon District and will encourage existing businesses to reinvest, Martin said.
The Oregon District’s dining scene has been especially active the last few years. In 2013, the district added Lily’s Bistro and Salar Restaurant & Lounge. In 2014, Roost Modern Italian and the Dublin Pub both completed extensive expansion and renovation projects, each valued at more than $350,000. And this year, another new restaurant, Corner Kitchen, opened in renovated space that formerly housed Sloopy’s, Bar Tiki and Pulse, but which had been vacant.
Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, said the Oregon District boasts “one of the best mixes of locally owned restaurants in the region,” and she noted that leasing activity has been robust for non-restaurant merchants as well. Another new business, a boutique called “Heart on 5th,” is scheduled to open Friday at 504 E. Fifth St., in space that previously housed Practice Yoga.
“As soon as space becomes available in the Oregon District, it gets snapped up very quickly,” Gudorf said.
“The Oregon District has character,” Gudorf said. “It’s very walkable, and it has a feel to it of neighbors knowing each other.”
Carol Rhea, president of the planning association, said the “best street” awards “applaud those who have worked hard through careful planning, public engagement, and innovation to build better places to live, work, play, and visit — one street at a time.”
A ceremonial presentation that will include a representative of the APA, city officials and others is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Trolley Plaza adjacent to the Trolley Stop at 530 E. Fifth St.