When it comes to revitalizing downtown, Dayton-area young professionals are stepping up to the plate glass window.
Members of Generation Dayton and updayton, organizations that empower and engage young professionals, are leading a new project called Activated Spaces. This project is part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, a strategic blueprint for the future of downtown.
“We are so excited these young professionals have developed and are leading this important effort,” said Dr. Michael Ervin, co-chair of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan. “Creating a center city that attracts young professionals is an important goal of the Plan, so having Generation Dayton and updayton members implement the Activated Spaces project certainly helps meet that goal.”
Activated Spaces is aimed at giving new life to vacant street-level commercial space, particularly for arts and cultural purposes. Already, project leaders are seeking proposals from artists who would like to display their work in storefront windows.
“Updayton got involved with Activated Spaces because we’ve heard over and over from young people that a bustling downtown is extremely important to them,” said Scott Murphy, chair of updayton. “We see making downtown more beautiful and vibrant as a critical effort to attracting and retaining talented young people in the Dayton region.”
Activated Spaces has three main goals:
• reactivate and beautify vacant storefronts with creative displays
• encourage entrepreneurs, artists and community groups to occupy space for short- and long-term use
• showcase downtown properties and increase interest and investment in available downtown space
“In the short term, we want to turn ‘vacant’ to ‘vibrant’ as now-empty storefronts begin to fill with interesting things to see and do along the corridors that connect downtown’s assets,” said Shanon Potts, immediate past chair of Generation Dayton. “In the long term, we would like to see the overall vacancy rate for downtown office space be on par with its current residential vacancy rate, for which demand nearly always exceeds supply.”
Activated Spaces been organized into three teams, all intended to improve the overall look and feel of downtown while reactivating vacant spaces in the short and long terms. They are:
Street Level Team
This team will fill vacant storefronts with visual displays that promote downtown assets. The themed displays will be refreshed approximately every six months. The first installation theme is “Celebrating Dayton,” in which artists are asked to create pieces that visually demonstrate Dayton’s heritage and diversity. Interested artists should apply by 5 p.m. Friday, March 25, and art will be installed prior to the next Urban Nights on May 13. Click here for more information or contact Sherri Wierzba at Wierzba@downtowndayton.org or 937-224-1518, ext. 226. The Celebrating Dayton art installation is funded by updatyon and the Downtown Dayton Partnership.
Activate Spaces Team
This team will develop a program for short-term stores to open in now-vacant spaces. The temporary stores could be pop-up retail shops, seasonal shops or testing grounds for entrepreneurs. In the long term, this team hopes to fill space with permanent tenants and retailers.
Open for Business Team
This team will focus on short- and long-term business strategies and other initiatives that will fill now-vacant space with new businesses activity downtown. To do so, this team will partner with local colleges and universities to create an engaging learning exercise for students in business programs. The team also will partner with emerging business owners and entrepreneurs who would like to open downtown.
Volunteers now are developing detailed short- and long-term goals and estimated project budgets. Those interested in getting involved should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’ve also heard walkability is extremely important to young, creative professionals, and we believe filling downtown storefronts will strengthen walking connections, as people are more likely to walk when the paths look inviting and friendly,” Murphy said. “The Activated Spaces project also will be a great vehicle for showcasing local artists and a chance for creative people and emerging leaders to step forward to help the Dayton region.”
Similar initiatives in other cities successfully have met the goals of Activated Spaces and are being used as models for the efforts in downtown Dayton. However, Dayton’s project is distinct in at least two regards: It’s being led by young professionals and is comprised of three teams working in a coordinated fashion toward the same overall goal of improving their city’s urban core.
“Our organization is full of next-generation leaders who are civic-minded and want to make a difference for the better in our community,” Potts said. “Activated Spaces enables them to combine their desire to make a difference with their interest in the development of downtown.”