Downtown Dayton’s turnaround kicked into higher gear in 2018 with some big additions people have wanted for years.
A new free music amphitheater brought large crowds into the center city. A new free shuttle service launched connecting hot spot destinations and job centers.
The first hotel to be built downtown in decades opened this fall.
And downtown got new things to do and new places to eat, drink, live and work.
“From new businesses and amenities to a growing density of downtown residents, this has certainly been a busy year,” said Dan McCabe, co-chair of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.
The year has been a very productive year for downtown, continuing years of growing momentum, said Downtown Dayton Partnership President Sandy Gudorf at the annual Special Improvement District meeting held last week.
Public and private investment in downtown since the 2010 launch of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan is nearly $1.1 billion.
There’s also nearly $438 million in projects currently under development, including the transformative rehab of the Dayton Arcade and the much-anticipated revitalization of the Fire Blocks District, officials said.
“We’re moving in the right direction — swiftly and strongly,” Gudorf said.
Downtown got a lot more lively this summer with the opening of the Levitt Pavilion Dayton.
Beginning in August, the state-of-the-art amphitheater at South Main and East Fifth streets hosted 33 free shows that brought around 26,000 people downtown.
The $5 million pavilion had restaurant and bar owners singing its praises.
A small poll of Levitt visitors found that 38 percent went to a business in a six-block radius of the pavilion before, during or after the concerts, said Lisa Wagner, executive director of the Levitt Pavilion Dayton.
The pavilion was a regional hit and brought in people from outside the area, she said.
“We attracted over 67 zip codes,” Wagner said.
Days after the last Levitt concert of the inaugural season in October, downtown welcomed its first newly constructed hotel in more than four decades.
The 98-room Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott opened at the northeast corner of East Monument and Riverside Drive in the lively Water Street District.
The six-story hotel is expected to be popular among business travelers, people in town for special events or to visit family and friends and those looking for weekend getaways.
“We hadn’t have a hotel open in downtown Dayton since Jimmy Carter was president,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
The hotel opened in the Water Street District, which is one of the hottest parts of the city. The developers have invested more than $100 million, creating new housing (Water Street Flats, Delco Lofts), new food and dining (Lock 27 Brewing, Basil’s on Market) and new amenities and office space (Snap Fitness, PNC Bank).
Woodard Development, one of the Water Street developers, is rehabbing a building at 607 E. Third St. into new offices and first-floor retail or restaurant uses.
Crawford Hoying, the other developer, has acquired the Landing apartments in northwestern part of downtown with plans to improve operations — possibly more.
Crawford Hoying and Woodard Development are constructing a five-story apartment building on the eastern end of Fifth Third Field.
There’s been a 57 percent increase in housing units in Dayton’s core since 2010, according to the Downtown Dayton Partnership. Downtown is now home to 1,585 market-rate homes, condos and apartments.
And there’s another 502 downtown housing units in the pipeline, like the 112-unit Centerfield Flats.
“We’re sitting on about a 98-percent occupancy, so it’s pretty tough to find a place if you want to live downtown,” Gudorf said.
Finding a place to live downtown might be hard, but it’s gotten a lot easier to get around the center city.
That’s because the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority in November launched a free circulator bus called the Flyer.
The Flyer shuttles takes people between hot spots and job centers, so they can get around quickly and easily without having to worry about parking.
The shuttles travel in a short loop stretching from Brown Street by the University of Dayton to Monument Avenue by RiverScape MetroPark. The buses arrive at the stops along the route every 10 minutes.
Local officials have discussed starting a free downtown shuttle service for years.
About 32 new businesses opened in downtown this year, including a Spanish-style tapas bar and restaurant called Bar Granada and Olive Mediterranean Grill.
The Van Buren Room cocktail lounge opened at the Belle of Dayton distillery. Over the summer, RSM US moved its accounting offices into a building on the first block of South Patterson Boulevard.
The Special Improvement District meeting highlighted some of the projects coming up in the new year.
The developer of the Wheelhouse Lofts at 210 Wayne Ave. in the Oregon District is preparing to start construction in early 2019 on the Dayton Motor Car building.
The roughly $18.2 million project will convert the rundown six-story building into modern offices and other uses, the developer said.
“It’s the kind of building we like — it’s in terrible shape, it’s falling apart,” said Lee Weyland, director of commercial leasing with the Kentucky-based developer, Weyland Ventures.
An area at the eastern end of the Oregon District that saw decades of disinvestment is on the upswing because of the revival of the 210 Wayne Ave. commercial building into new loft apartments, the Troll Pub and Speakeasy Yoga, officials said. The Motor Car building project should bring more transformation, and Weyland Venture has more projects planned in coming years, Weyland said.