Three-day forum seen as key to mall area’s future

Dayton Mall corridor employs up to 10,000 people.

A three-day forum next month is being seen as a key phase in the future of the Dayton Mall area.

How a master plan for the area surrounding the 45-year-old mall takes shape will heavily depend on public input gathered Feb. 9-11 at Cox Arboretum, said officials working on the project.

“Of all of the public engagement parts to this planning effort, I think this is likely the most important,” said Steve Kearney, project manager of Stantec Urban Places Group, which was awarded a $282,000 contract last fall to help revitalize the area, considered an important but aging regional economic driver.

The mall accounts for more than $200 million in annual sales. Surrounding businesses in the master plan district are estimated to employ 8,000 to 10,000 workers.

Stantec has spent the past few months interviewing residents, business operators and other area stakeholders, Kearney said. It has also collected data from others through Textizen sessions, texting surveys that allow people to respond at their own pace. All told, the company has received feedback from hundreds in the area, he said.

Kearney said the three-day session represents a transition in the master plan, which is expected to take 12 to 15 months to complete. Area residents are likely to see in draft concepts based on compiled data, said Miami Twp. Planning and Zoning Director Chris Snyder, a member of the Miami Twp.-Dayton Mall Joint Economic Development District Board that hired Stantec.

“The public will really have a chance to help shape the plan in the sense of seeing what areas we are beginning to identify, really need to be focused on, and coming up with some initial concepts for that,” he said.

“And then being able to give feedback in an open working process over the course of those three days — I think it will be an interesting, unique experience for a lot of people to be able to participate in that way,” Snyder added.

The process is “moving into developing a framework that will begin to identify the very real implementation recommendations and strategies that this master plan will present,” Kearney said.

Stantec was brought on to help modernize the area, which officials said has never been the focus of such an in-depth study.

This, coupled with demographic trends, makes the mall area ripe for change, Stantec officials have said.

The master plan focuses on a two-square-mile section encompassing Ohio 741 and Ohio 725 in Miami Twp. and Miamisburg, Snyder said. It will also impact Washington Twp. and West Carrollton.

The plan will have a northern boundary of around Cox Arboretum and a southern one of Newmark Drive, Snyder said.

Issues considered by the Boston-based firm include current and future land use, transportation needs, pedestrian access, marketing strategies, regulatory issues, and potential financing options to fund improvements, according to the JEDD board.

The board wants to identify a series of short-term projects that can be implemented within one to two years of the plan completion. It also wants mid-term and long-range projects that may take from five to 10 years to complete and from 10 to 20 years for longer term projects, documents show.

The mall area offers easy access to major traffic arteries, a good tax base, and close proximity to developable land in a stable community with a steady population, area residents told Stantec in November.

However, drawbacks include traffic congestion, insufficient access to public transportation, an aging population and a lack of pedestrian-friendly access ways, those same people said.

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