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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Dayton Daily News is taking an in-depth look at quality-of-life issues in the Miami Valley and compares the Dayton area to like-sized metropolitan areas. We will feature stories that explore business growth, entertainment options, and a push to revitalize the core of downtown. Leaders, economic experts and residents answer the question driving the next phase of the region’s development: “Why Dayton?”
A push to bring business back to the core of Dayton has resulted in an influx of small businesses opening up shop downtown.
The Downtown Dayton Partnership said the total occupancy rate is about 86.9 percent for “move-in ready” spaces of first floor properties — often used for businesses like brewpubs, boutiques, restaurants and niche shops.
The total occupied square footage of first-floor business space is up more than 14 percent compared to 2010 — with about 488,668 square footage filled.
“We’re continuing to see growth with small business,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.
Gudorf said when first-floor space opens up that’s suitable for businesses, it has been quickly filled. Earlier in the summer, Sew Dayton — located at 261 Wayne Ave. next to Press Coffee — closed after the business owners decided to go in different directions.
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The space was quickly filled to house a new boutique, Luna Gifts & Botanicals. The shop is owned by six women, who started their small business venture with another store in the Oregon District — Heart Mercantile.
Heart Mercantile is clothing, home goods and gifts store located at 504 5th St. Carly Barrett, one of the owners, said they saw the space open and thought it was fate, and they decided to take the leap.
“We’ll have a nice mix of everything,” Barrett told the Dayton Daily News.
Chris Kershner, vice president of public policy and economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said businesses wanting to invest in downtown is part of a shift in culture — one that honors the “live, work, play” mentality.
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Younger professionals want their businesses located near where they live and where they want to spend their free time, he said.
Gudorf said the city has worked effortlessly to bring business back downtown through several initiatives. The Activated Space Pop-Up Project matches business owners and entrepreneurs who want to try out a concept with downtown property owners who have storefront space available.
Through that program, 22 shops have been opened, filling more than 22,000 square footage of space. Kershner said the future of business in downtown looks different than Dayton’s past — it’s not going to be one or two businesses anchoring the economic prosperity.
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It’ll be a mix of corporations and small business that ties the community together, he said.
“Cost of living, culture, quality of life for businesses, employers and employees — we have some of the best of that in the country,” Kershner said. “Downtown isn’t going to look like it did in the past, and I don’t think that’s what it should be. You have to know where you came from to know where you’re going.”