For years, Dayton city planners and downtown advocates have heard the same remark over and over: downtown has many individual assets, but they need to be better connected physically. If one parks for a Dragons game and then walks to bars in the Oregon District, or watches a movie at the Neon and goes for a stroll to Riverscape, the pedestrian experience tends to leave something to be desired.
That will soon change with the completion of the Patterson Boulevard Canal Parkway Project, a half-mile, $2 million complete overhaul of the pedestrian amenities between Second and Sixth Streets. Elements include new landscaping, lighting, historical signage, sidewalks and crosswalks.
“Through conversations and focus groups for the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan,” says Sandy Gudorf of the Downtown Dayton Partnership, “we heard a clear desire to make downtown more walkable and connected, and its eastern edge is our strongest residential area. We’re excited that the City of Dayton has acted so quickly on this critical infrastructure.”
Reinterpreting the Past
The City of Dayton is implementing the project with funds from the Ohio Cultural Facilities Commission, who helped define the project with a focus on the history of the Miami-Erie Canal. Its story will be interpreted through text and graphics on striped pylons.The canal ran from Toledo to Cincinnati and crossed Dayton through the path that is now Patterson Boulevard. Construction began in 1825 and lasted twenty years, providing physically demanding work for many Dayton residents and growing our size considerably. Though it was a key shipping artery, the canal struggled to compete with rail throughout its life and suffered a final death blow with the 1913 flood, yet wasn’t filled in for a quarter-century.
Another relic from Dayton’s past – a monument removed from the old library site – has been unearthed from a City of Dayton storage yard after fifty years. The former fountain is being installed at the eastern edge of Cooper Park, greeting pedestrians on the Canal Parkway. The monument was dedicated to Ambrose Winters, a lawyer credited with rallying support for much of Dayton’s early streetscape infrastructure. Project manager Amy Walbridge says, “As a citizen of Dayton, I am so very happy about this. While it’s important to look forward, it’s good to look back and see what great work the citizens of Dayton who came before us did for this community.”
Looking Forward to a Thriving Downtown Neighborhood
Even prior to construction, downtown residents began embracing Patterson Boulevard as the important center to their emerging neighborhood. Last year a group of volunteers made dramatic improvements to the triangular greenspace at Fourth Street, with new seating, landscaping, and art. That small park will see even more transformation with the upcoming installation of the major new public sculpture ‘Fluid Dynamics’ by local artist Jon Barlow Hudson. The sculpture was commissioned thanks to a $55,000 donation from the Pflaum family and its pedestal has already been constructed as part of the Canal Parkway infrastructure.
Downtown resident, realtor, and Priority Board Chair Steve Seboldt senses new enthusiasm for downtown living. “I think the rapid sales of the townhouses by Simms [Patterson Square] shows that people are interested in the livability of downtown. The improved walkway on Patterson will encourage people to walk to Oregon and around Downtown.”
Construction for the Canal Parkway is scheduled to be completed in the first half of December 2012.