A Change for the Better

 A Change for the Better

People are flocking back to downtown Dayton’s urban core.

Eric Spangler

Change. It’s a common theme for those who live in the heart of downtown Dayton.

For some it’s a change to move from a suburban to urban setting. For others it’s the change they see in the energy and vibe of the urban core.

Mostly, everyone agrees, moving downtown is a change for the better.

“After living in suburbia most of our lives we were ready for a change when our youngest son graduated from college, so that is when we made the move,” says Marilyn Klaben, who along with her husband, Larry, moved into Performance Place at 1 W. Second St. two and a half years ago. “We have enjoyed downtown life ever since,” she says.

That’s music to Val Beerbower’s ears. Beerbower is the public relations and communications manager at the Downtown Dayton Partnership, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make downtown Dayton a better place to live, work and visit. “We promote the downtown lifestyle,” says Beerbower.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership is one of the participants in the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan, a public/private partnership that was launched in 2010 to make downtown’s future a priority.

One of the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan’s original goals was to develop 2,500 new housing units and increase the residential population in downtown’s core by 50 percent by 2020. It’s estimated that about 2,000 people now live downtown.

So why is it so important to bring people downtown to live? “Cities that don’t have a strong urban core just don’t survive,” says Beerbower. “In order for the growth of the region, the economic prosperity of the entire region, it’s kind of central to have that strong urban corridor,” she says.

Helping to rebuild that strong urban corridor are men like real estate developer Charlie Simms. But even Simms wasn’t so sure he could sell residential developments in downtown’s urban core.

“When we finally decided to take the plunge [to build townhomes in downtown] five years ago I was even skeptical then,” says Simms. “But it didn’t take long for that first 18-unit project we did—Patterson Square—we sold all those in about eight months and it was very obvious that there was a big demand and people wanted to live downtown.”

Simms is now working on his fifth downtown project—Monument Walk—which when completed next year will bring the total number of townhomes his company has built downtown to 104, he says.

Kelly and Mike Romano live in one of the townhomes that Simms’ company built—Patterson Square. “I was interested in simple and Mike wanted an urban environment and thought downtown was the perfect location,” says Kelly Romano. One year later, it’s a move they don’t regret. “It has been much better than I expected,” she says. “So many great places to eat, breweries to attend, and we’ve met some amazing people.”

Kelly Romano says many things are different in downtown Dayton since she graduated from Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in 1997. “So many changes have happened since then,” she says.

One of the nicest changes is that their son, Noah, a 15-year-old freshman at Stivers School for the Arts, is enjoying the urban lifestyle. “I think he hangs out with us more now than he did in Vandalia,” Kelly Romano says.

Also ditching the suburbs for downtown were Amy and Kevin Rehfus. Again, it was change that drove their decision.

“We were looking for a change and wanted to try out an urban setting,” says Amy Rehfus. “All our lives we lived in the suburbs and would visit the city for fun activities, but decided it would be exciting to try living here in Dayton.” They moved to The Landing Apartments in June.

Many of the new downtown residents were attracted to the urban core by the amenities that are offered. Marilyn Klaben says, “We moved downtown to be in the center of things, to be walking distance to arts events, the bikeway, RiverScape [Metropark], restaurants, 2nd St. Market.”

Not only are there amenities downtown, but they’re also nearby. That’s something buyers are looking for, says Simms. “People are looking for walkability and just an urban lifestyle. It’s the walkability and the location and people don’t have to use their car as much.”

Plus, says Simms, there’s a lot going on downtown all the time. “There’s festivals, there’s the arts, there’s dining, there’s the river, there’s the ballpark. We have all these great amenities and it’s geared toward that healthier active lifestyle that people want.”

Amy Rehfus couldn’t agree more. “Moving to downtown has allowed us to bike or walk pretty much everywhere, thus giving us a much more active life,” she says. “We feel it has been better than we could have hoped for and has immensely improved our quality of life.”

But it’s not just about moving to where the amenities are located close to home, it’s also about living a simplified lifestyle.

“It was very freeing to leave behind all the work associated with maintaining a big house and to ‘right size’ to a space that we can fully utilize,” says Amy Rehfus. “No more raking leaves, mulching, mowing a lawn, etc.”

Marilyn Klaben says that’s another reason they moved downtown. “Living in a condo provides a simpler life than owning a home,” she says. “Less maintenance, no yard work and no snow removal.”

Simms credits the city of Dayton for creating the environment to bring people back to downtown to live. “The city did an excellent job of getting the city ready for this surge [of residential development],” he says. “They cleaned up the streets, they cleaned up the crime, they built the RiverScape, the ball park is there, they’ve done improvements on Patterson Boulevard, they’ve done improvements to the Oregon District. Dayton will continue to grow for the next 20 to 40 years. I think it’s going to have a really good run.” And that’s certainly a change for the better.