The University of Dayton will be an anchor tenant in the redeveloped Dayton Arcade if the downtown plans move forward, UD president Eric Spina revealed during his inauguration speech Tuesday.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley called UD’s commitment “a game-changer” in the Arcade process, saying a successful redevelopment there could do as much for southwest downtown as the Dragons’ Fifth Third Field has done for the thriving northeast side.
UD envisions placing faculty and staff offices at the Arcade, offering courses there, as well as helping create an “ideation center” to focus on entrepreneurship and economic growth, Spina said.
“This is a university that’s long been deeply engaged with the community in mutually beneficial partnerships,” Spina said. “What I heard over the last nine months from the community and the university is we should do more. We should double down.”
Developers’ plans for the arcade have long called for creating co-working, incubator and shared office spaces that are modeled after “innovation hubs” in other cities, such as New York City, Chicago and Baltimore.
The current $75 million plan by Miller-Valentine Group and Cross Street Partners has already been awarded $20 million in low-income housing tax credits, and about $20 million in new market tax credits, according to developers and city officials.
The group hopes to create a mix of office and retail space, along with 130 apartments marketed to artistic and creative professionals. The arcade would also host a kitchen incubator and places for public events, art exhibits, a market and demonstration classes.
Spina said the arcade would become a collaboration and innovation hub available to students and faculty, bringing together entrepreneurs, higher-education, research institutions and arts and cultural organizations. He emphasized UD’s commitment to community partnerships and “experiential learning” for its students.
“It will be a place where students can gain confidence that they can indeed work in community to change the world,” he said.
“We seek to capitalize on the entrepreneurial spirit of our campus and the strategic focus of the greater Dayton region with investments and initiatives that will be catalytic for our community and transformational for the University of Dayton,” he said.
The Dayton Arcade is the most challenging real estate project in the entire region, but it also has the most catalytic potential, John Gower, urban design director for CityWide Development Corp., told this news outlet last week.
>>RELATED: City to contribute $1M to Dayton Arcade
The nearly $75 million rehabilitation plans for the arcade would jump-start a struggling part of downtown and would be a big step toward creating The Nine, which is a strategy for creating a new, lively nine-block urban neighborhood, officials said.
Spina’s arcade announcement comes less than a week after the city of Dayton approved spending as much as $1 million to support redeveloping the property.
The city’s investment will help pay for architectural, demolition and engineering services that officials say are important if developers are to close on the property this summer. The architectural work will help determine the true costs of the rehabbing the arcade’s seven interconnected buildings, which are important for pulling together the financing.
Not long ago, the city wasn’t so sure about the Arcade’s future. Whaley recalled Tuesday that in a 2013 candidate debate, she said her preference would be to tear it down. But the city’s 2014 Arcade task force revealed an opportunity.
>>RELATED: Arcade seeks to blend complex’s past, future
In a meeting with reporters after the inauguration, Spina said that hopefully UD will be cutting ribbons at the arcade within a few years. Whaley said she believes developers have letters of intent from other potential end-users, but UD is the first public one.
“I think for the Arcade to move, it has to be pretty quick, because on the tax credit money, there’s a deadline,” she said. “This is first time since the Arcade closed in 1992 that there have been any dollars committed and anybody showing interest. We’re further along that we’ve ever been on this project.”
With UD as an anchor tenant, the arcade will be on the path to becoming an innovation center that is an economic engine for the Central Business District, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.
UD offers unmatched support, resources, programming and expertise that can help make the vision for the arcade a reality, Dickstein said.
This is another big step forward for a large and complicated project that requires significant community support, and UD’s involvement also helps assemble a financing structure for the redevelopment plans, she said.
“Each day we are gaining confidence that we will be successful in a mid-year closing,” Dickstein said.
The arcade will partner with institutions of higher learning to create pathways to “quality, career-track jobs,” such as computer coding, cybersecurity, unmanned aerial vehicles, creative digital arts and some service careers, the development firm said.
Local officials said the chances that the arcade project will succeed continue to improve. But they warn that challenges remain.
On Friday, the development team that wants to rehab the Dayton Arcade applied for $5 million in state historic preservation tax credits. Last year, the partners — Miller-Valentine Group and Cross Street Partners — came very close to winning a tax credit award in that amount, but were edged out by another local project.
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