I have been asked that question a hundred times. “Why would you sell your house in Beavercreek and move to Dayton?”
I have been around Dayton for most of my life. I grew up in Eaton, just 25 miles west of Dayton. I attended the Montgomery County Join Vocational School (now Miami Valley Career Technology Center) my junior and senior years of high school. Then off to the big city I went, to attend the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, where I earned my degree in Visual Communication.
Soon after graduation, I landed my first ad agency job at Flynn/Sabatino located at Fourth and Ludlow Streets in downtown Dayton. My first apartment was on Grafton Ave., just across the river. I remember running into one of my high school buddies during that time. He asked what I had been up to. When I told him I was working at an ad agency in Dayton, he responded with, “Oh… Hit the big-time, eh?”
I literally laughed out loud.
After two years I quit my job, sold everything and moved to New York City. I had a friend that had moved there after college.
Most would agree that I had a pretty charmed agency career. I was hired as an art director at Bozell Jacobs just a few days after I moved to the city, where I was assigned toMerrill-Lynch and Holiday Inn accounts. I also met my wife Bonnie there. She was from upstate New York, but had migrated to the city to attend Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, earning her BFA with a Minor in Art Education.
I remember people assuming that because I was from Ohio that I must have grown up on a farm. My standard answer was, (with the blankest expression I could muster up) “My dad was a State Farm agent… we lived in town… but I did milk a cow once on a field trip in the third grade.”
I know they viewed me as this helpless kid from the middle of nowhere. (Often referred to in the city as “fly-over!” (New York, L.A., maybe Chicago. Everything else you just fly over.) I was 22.
After a year and a half in New York City I was offered a position at an agency back in Dayton. (Back then I used to say I had been exiled to Dayton.) I had married and my wife we were expecting our first child.
What all those New Yorkers didn’t realize was that I considered myself to be the George Baily of my hometown. (Jimmy Stewart’s character from “It’s a Wonderful Life.) “I’m shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I’m gonna see the world!”
By the time I was in high school I was telling people I was from Dayton. Who had ever heard of Eaton, Ohio?
As a child I can still remember riding into Dayton and the thrill of seeing the I-75/35 interchange! All those layers of overpasses climbing higher and higher! I remember my grandfather telling me stories of helping with the recovery effort from the flood of 1913. My mom grew up on Cleveland Ave. in Dayton, just off Smithville. She graduated from Patterson Co-op. My older sister got a job at Wright Patterson Air Force Base after high school and married a guy from Old North Dayton who attended grade school at Our Lady of the Rosary.
Obviously our family always had one foot in Eaton, one foot in Dayton. My orthodontist’s office was on Salem Ave.! After bouncing around from city to city (Cincinnati, Tipp City, Brookville, Beavercreek), we find ourselves in a new season of life. We are officially “empty nesters.”
3½ years ago we had this idea… to sell our house in Beavercreek and return to our urban roots. (Granted, Dayton is not Manhattan, but it is our home… And it’s the hub of this region.) Our youngest daughter still had one year left of high school, and plans to wed the following summer. And we had a house to sell.
We spent the next 3½ years heading down this path. We weren’t all that interested in McPherson Town, Oregon District or South Park. All great options, but we wanted to live right downtown. In November of 2012 we sold our home. $20,000.00 in repairs and upgrades over two years, and six months on the market. And we had to take $6,000.00 to the closing table. (Obviously we were really committed to this idea.)
Once it sold, we were faced with, “What do we do now?”
Our dream has been to purchase a building downtown and renovate it into a really cool loft apartment. But it became painfully obvious that wasn’t going to happen in any reasonable timeframe. So, after crashing at my sister’s house behind the Art Institute for a few months, we elected to settle into an apartment at FirstPlace on West First Street and give ourselves a chance to catch our breath.
We love living downtown.
I remember the exact place and time when I felt the coin drop and I realized I really do love Dayton… Driving through downtown on I-75 about to merge onto 35. (At that time the Reynolds and Reynolds clock tower was still at that location.) I turned to my friend and began talking about how much I love Dayton and how there are so many people in need and how our city needs revived!
We now have front-row seats for the I-75 construction through downtown! It’s active with over 90,000 cars passing by each day. We get to watch the weather roll in, and the sun set every night from our 7th floor domicile! I can tell you every time there’s a Dragon’s home game, or when the Life Flight takes off from Miami Valley Hospital. We have discovered some great places to eat, and they aren’t all on Fifth or Brown Streets. (Tank’s, Coco’s and Olive to name a few.) We love walking around RiverScape! Especially when the fountains are turned on!
Sure, Dayton pretty much shuts down early in the evening unless there is an event at the Schuster Center or Victoria Theater… But those events happen pretty frequently! In the few months we have lived downtown, Shrek the Musical, the Addams Family and Mary Poppins have come to town. Not to mention Rock of Ages, Dreamgirls and Myth Busters-Behind the Myths! On the first Friday of every month there is a FirstFriday Art Hop, and in the spring and fall, Urban Nights. Countless festivals and other events at Courthouse Square sprinkle the calendar.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Again, Dayton isn’t Manhattan… I get that. I also get that some of my urbanite friends poo-poo places like the Greene. I understand that when some refer to Dayton, it’s boundary-specific. But I’m not one of those people. I love all that this region offers. (Did you know seven counties border Montgomery County?)
I love that Dayton holds a major league record for consecutive sell-outs (Dragons/Fifth-Third Field.) I love that Dayton holds more patents per capita than any other city in the country! I love that Dayton topped the list of “Happiest City to Work In” by Forbes in 2012! I love that when President Obama wanted to take the British Prime Minister to a basketball game, they came to Dayton’s own U.D. Arena! I love that we are home to the National Museum of the United States Air Force! (Even though we didn’t get one of the retiring space shuttles… I’m still bitter about that!) Did you know that Martin Sheen recently stopped by the Foodbank? I could go on…
I would be amiss if I failed to mention the Wright brothers in this diatribe.
And, have you seen the new 50+ million dollar GE Aviation Research facility being built near U.D.?
Yes, I am well aware most of our automotive industry dried up and blew to Mexico. I realize that our only remaining Fortune 500 Company (NCR) moved to Atlanta, GA. Such is life. At the time, it felt like the final nail in the coffin.
But I am so tired of hearing people say, “Dayton is dying.” Dayton is NOT dying. It is reviving. There are signs of life everywhere you look. Dayton is no different than any other small-to-mid-sized-city in the U.S. Most cities like Dayton are struggling to keep businesses alive and keep kids in school. Most inner cities are constantly fighting crime or the perception of being unsafe. Many businesses relocate to more suburban areas. I get that… I do.
But there is a movement abroad to see Dayton flourish again. To see Dayton become the innovative city for which it once was known. We have some great up-and-coming young leaders in our community via Generation Dayton.
You may not love Dayton the way I do, but I would challenge you to step outside your comfort zone a bit and give Dayton a chance. Take in a show at the Schuster or take a stroll though any of the amazing Five Rivers MetroParks scattered across the Miami Valley. Come downtown on a Friday or Saturday night. Or better yet, stop by the PNC Second Street Market on a Saturday morning. You may be pleasantly surprised!
And, maybe… just maybe… you’ll love Dayton, too!
The voice of I Love Dayton! on Facebook. Executive Director of The Hope Foundation of Greater Dayton. Pastor at the Vineyard Church in Beavercreek. New media enthusiast with a degree in visual communication. http://hope4dayton.com [email protected]