First Friday seems like the right time for the Downtown Dayton Partnership to address the changing focus of their focus and strategy for promoting downtown Dayton as a premier place to live, work and play. Today, the landscape in downtown is changing – literally and figuratively – and the DDP, under the guidance of a team of downtown businesses, organizations, residents and advocates, announces a revised event strategy that reflects the evolution of downtown Dayton.
Events are an important part of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, a public-private partnership that supports key initiatives to revitalize Dayton’s urban core. “We know the DDP will continue to host events as a way to encourage people to visit downtown, and we enlisted the help of a special committee to review our existing event structure and determine how we can best use events to showcase downtown,” explained Downtown Dayton Partnership President Sandra Gudorf.
The Downtown Events Steering Committee is made up of a diverse group of downtown residents, business owners, arts organizations, nonprofits, and other engaged individuals. Dayton Business Journal’s Carol Clark and Vectren President Colleen Ryan, both of whom live and work downtown, chaired The Downtown Events Steering Committee. The group reviewed existing DDP events and measured their performance against specific goals: Events must bring fun and excitement to downtown Dayton to attract visitors of all ages and backgrounds, create an economic generator for downtown businesses, and showcase downtown amenities, including music and culture, active lifestyles, dining and nightlife, urban living, and shopping.
“Downtown is seeing progress, and it’s crucial for us to continue the momentum,” Gudorf said. Housing is hot with hundreds of residential units under construction and millions more dollars invested. There are more independent retailers and restaurateurs throughout downtown. More small businesses are opening, and construction on renovated spaces and new projects continues to roll ahead. “We need to make sure our efforts reflect the changing downtown landscape,” she said.
The revamped event strategy calls for enhancing programming during First Friday and The Square Is Where, and breaking up the biannual Urban Nights events into more frequent, themed events. “The feedback we’ve collected from downtown businesses, residents, galleries and performing arts organizations, and other past Urban Nights participants indicated we needed to look at how we can use the content of Urban Nights and make it a more sustainable experience,” Gudorf said. “The purpose of Urban Nights—showcasing downtown’s arts, music, dining, shopping, nightlife and housing options—will still be part of the new event strategy. The nature of those events, the specific locations and the types of activities will be presented in a fresh, new format.”
“Look at everything that’s happening downtown: RiverScape River Run, bike share, the new Dayton Metro Library campus – how can we showcase everything our downtown has to offer, particularly to those who are unfamiliar with downtown or who haven’t visited in a long time?” asked Clark. In addition to assessing the impact of events on small businesses, the committee also evaluated downtown events hosted by other organizations, and existing and upcoming amenities to determine how DDP-sponsored public programming and events might best create long-term, sustainable growth.
“Public perception is changing, and we should be prepared to capitalize on that,” said Ryan. “Downtown’s small business owners need people coming through their doors more than a couple times a year. We reviewed best practices in other cities, worked with our partners, and listened to our downtown constituents to come up with ideas for events that meet those goals and generate lasting impact for businesses, residential units and cultural organizations.”
Other recommendations in the new DDP event strategy include nurturing partnerships and developing resources for businesses. Partnerships call for combined efforts in promotional efforts (such as the upcoming Wicked Deals that offers incentives for Wicked ticket holders to patronize downtown businesses), joint programming (such as building off existing or new events to enhance the visitor experience), and empowering advocates by offering a process for creative individuals and groups to apply to host a program or activity in conjunction with an event, supported by the DDP. “A successful events strategy will showcase the best attributes of downtown and engage the public on a number of levels,” Gudorf said.
The DDP and the steering committee are in the process of developing a calendar of events and reaching out to partner organizations for activity suggestions. Today, the schedule includes kicking off the summer season with an arts event on May 8, in conjunction with special events planned at the Dayton Visual Arts Center, K12/Tejas Gallery, RiverScape MetroPark and Sideshow X at the “Old” Yellow Cab Building. Coming up in June, the focus will switch to active living. “We will continue to showcase our downtown amenities, like our vibrant arts scene,” Gudorf said. “Focusing on a couple amenities at a time will stretch the activities out over the course of the summer, which will extend the economic impact for our businesses, creating sustainable growth.”
Gudorf stressed the importance of using events as tools to connect people to the city center, and the new event strategy will help achieve those goals: “Regardless of what an event is called, how often it takes place, or the precise location of the activities, DDP events will still put downtown’s best foot forward and provide one-of-a-kind experiences for newcomers and frequent guests alike,” she said.
If you’ve got an idea for an activity or program you’d like to suggest to the DDP, use this link to fill out their online form.