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Looking for new office space? New downtown Dayton program to help first-timers

A downtown program that helps small businesses open brick-and-mortar stores is looking to expand into the office market this fall, a small step to help fill empty office spaces in Dayton.

Dayton has one of the highest office vacancy rates of the major metros in the country at almost 21 percent, according to a 2018 report by Colliers International. The city traditionally has lost talent to the suburbs as buildings downtown become outdated, with investors hesitant to renovate spaces because of rising construction costs that would only bring small business with a few employees.

“Businesses want to move to the urban core because in looking to hire young professionals, that’s where they want to be, that makes a business more attractive,” said Jen Cadieux, manager of the pop-up project for the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

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Since 2011 the partnership has helped retailers launch businesses in downtown stores through collaboration with building owners to offer lower rents and shorter three- to six-month leases. Since it started, 26 pop-ups have opened and 17 stayed open longer than their initial pop-up period. Thirteen of the shops are still open today, including the two in the first round of start-ups, Cadieux said.

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Now the partnership will take the same cheaper rent and shorter lease model to fill downtown office space and help companies open offices.

“Because it has been so successful and we have so much office product available, maybe we can start changing that conversation, that some of these towers are cool spaces and people should and want to open their office business in one of the towers,” Cadieux said.

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In the future it’s likely the program will focus on retailers in the spring round of applications and office spaces in the fall, she said. Each installment has the capacity to launch between one and three new businesses, depending on how many applicants fit the available spaces and are ready to make the move to brick-and-mortar. The office program could have an added benefit of some sort of professional service.

“We know there is some interest because we have had some office users, creative service firms typically, apply and become a pop-up shop; even though they’re not retail or a restaurant, they want the first-floor exposure,” she said.

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The likely applicants will be technology and creative service companies — “that are ready for some growth, maybe hire a couple of people, not working in their house or in coffee shops or want more of a place where their team can come every day and work,” Cadieux said.

There will likely be more announcements in the next few weeks about applications opening for potential businesses looking to launch office space downtown, she said.

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