There were strong opinions on both sides, with those for it claiming that it would bring "upscale" stores that the Dayton region didn’t already have and keep more money from leaving the region and being spent in Columbus and Cincinnati. Those against it claimed that the area did not have the population to support yet another mall, that it was irresponsible to allow even more trees to be cut down in the name of development, and that this new mall should have been placed in Downtown Dayton.
As I’m sure you’re aware by now, I live downtown and have been an advocate for downtown for a few years now. My feelings about the Greene have always been mixed. Sure it is better to keep shoppers in our region rather than force them to travel to our neighboring bigger cities in order to satisfy their Pottery Barn fixes. But the whole idea of creating a brand new "downtown" when we already have a real downtown just doesn’t sit well with me. I understand that a large number of people out there feel that there is not enough in our real downtown to get them to drive a whole 20 minutes to get here and that is is far too dangerous to come down here – especially at night (just a couple of misperceptions we hope this site helps to dispel).
I actually checked out the Greene for the first time a couple weeks ago. My first reaction was – hmm, this is actually pretty nice. But as I continued to walk around, I noticed that their attempt at recreating a downtown feel – from the intimate streets complete with parallel parking and parking meters to the store facades filled with street-level windows and varying heights and architecture – seemed a bit…. fake. There were no stores or restaurants that I had never heard of. Everything was a little too clean and brand new. In other words – sterile. Even the book store felt very warehouse-shoppingesque ala Sam’s Club. No, this was not a downtown. It was simply another mall; though different from the other area malls, it offered nothing all that original.
Since the Greene was proposed, there have been rumors about how the developer’s first choice of locations was right here in our real downtown, but those same rumors claim that the city leadership screwed up the deal by putting too many restrictions on the developer. Who knows, perhaps the developer never wanted to locate downtown because they wanted to be close to the wealth of the region. I do know that from an economic standpoint, getting the Greene downtown would have helped the city immensely with the influx of people and tax dollars. But now that it has been built where it is, I have to wonder – would I have actually wanted it here? What would happen to all of the independent restaurants – could they compete with the national chains so nearby? Would people give up on the Oregon District in favor of "brand new and sterile"?
No, I am not upset that the Greene was not built here in our real downtown. I think the suburban landscape is a perfect location for this faux-downtown. Eventually it will be built out like Easton and the intimate, pedestrian-friendly atmosphere they are trying to accomplish will succumb to the same vast parking-lot feel of the other malls. Eventually people will realize that the Cheesecake Factory is nothing more than an overrated tacky chain restaurant with mediocre food (though I still love their cheesecake). Eventually people will realize that this faux-downtown is simply just another mall.
Those of you looking for the real thing – just come down to the Oregon District one night, or catch a show at the Loft Theater, or watch a movie at the Neon, or listen to some great Jazz at Gilly’s – and you will get a taste of what a real downtown is. Sure, we have a long way to go before we can start comparing ourselves to some other successful downtowns that come to mind. But there is an energy down here that is growing. I believe that there is a growing number of people that want an authentic experience. And as more people re-discover Downtown Dayton, the re-investment will follow.
What do you think?