UD wants to build a new arts center on South Main

The University of Dayton wants to build a new arts center on South Main Street, a project first proposed decades ago.

UD officials said they want to build a building that provides students with first-rate performance, gallery and media-production space.

The university said student interest in the arts continues to grow with majors in music, art and design and theater, dance and performance technology.

“Hundreds of other students actively participate in ensembles and bands, dance and theater troupes, visual arts exhibitions, and other arts opportunities,” a university statement said. “The arts help foster creativity, critical thinking, cultural competency and community engagement.”

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The proposed center also would capitalize on the redevelopment of the former Montgomery County Fairgrounds, which is located diagonally from the site.

UD requested that Dayton’s planning board approve an update to its general development plan to include the construction of the University Center for the Arts at the southeastern corner of South Main and East Stewart streets.

The university must update its general development plan to reflect changes to its previously approved plan, said Tony Kroeger, Dayton’s director of planning and community development.

UD continues to plan and raise funds, but the arts center project has not been put before the school’s board of trustees for approval, the university said. The project is scheduled to go before the board in January.

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A floor plan for the one-story center shows a concert hall, experimental theater, gallery, TV studio, audio production lab, on-air studio, space for Flyer News and other offices.

The hope would be to expand and bring all of these offerings, which are spread out across the campus, under one roof and provide professional-quality technology, equipment and performance and arts spaces, the university said.

UD has the 371-seat Boll Theatre on the first floor of the Kennedy Union. The school also has a 70-seat black box theater in Fitz Hall.

In recent years, UD consulted with local arts organizations and others as it renewed planning and funding for an arts center to ensure the facility would complement — and not compete with — existing venues and programming, the university said.

The proposed site is a grassy field that used to be part of the NCR campus.

UD purchased 50 acres of former NCR property from Brown Street to the river for $25 million in 2005, including the proposed site, and the school attracted funding to clean up what was mostly a brownfield.

UD originally considered putting the arts center on a parking lot at the southwest corner of Brown and Stewart streets.

In 2009, UD said it wanted to use some of the remediated NCR land for new academic buildings envisioned in the school’s campus master plan, including an arts center.

The university transformed some of the property into a new university gateway along West Stewart Street, including UD signage and landscaping, a pedestrian path and decorative lighting.

The arts center also was mentioned in the College of Arts and Sciences' Strategic Plan 2020, which launched in 2016.

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