Dayton helped create a $7 million “First Floor Fund” to help reactivate the city’s business districts, and the city also provided funding for home repairs, expanding the Dayton Ronald McDonald House and a full-service grocery store and food hub in West Dayton.
Crime threats and cars
Crime declined in Dayton in the first half of 2022, but there were still some worrisome trends this year that threatened public safety — several related to cars. Dayton police saw thefts of automobiles increase sharply because of security flaws in some Kias and Hyundais that make them easy to steal. Videos on social media websites give step-by-step instructions of how to hijack these vehicles using a basic USB cord.
Police also said illegal street racing and automobile “circus acts” were a major problem, and the city recently installed speed bumps and other traffic-calming devices along Gettysburg Avenue to combat these activities. Police also saw a big increase in catalytic converter thefts, which coincided with the value of the precious metals in the auto parts skyrocketing.
New food hall, housing in West Dayton
Dayton’s first food hall opened this past summer in the Wright Dunbar Business District, offering about half a dozen new places to eat and drink. The $2.1 million West Social Tap & Table project added dining and drinking options to an area of West Dayton that has limited choices, and the project has been heralded as the spark the neighborhood needs to attract new investment.
Charles Simms Development also plans to build new townhomes a few blocks away, along West Third Street, and new rental homes are planned for the nearby Wolf Creek neighborhood.
Dayton police reform
Dayton’s police reform efforts date back to the racial and criminal justice protests of mid-2020. The city this year launched a first-of-its-kind mediation response unit that is deployed to non-violent calls for conflict, like neighbor or family disputes and complaints about noise, pets, juvenile disturbances, loitering, panhandling and other issues.
Dayton says the program has been so successful that it is considering hiring more staff and expanding the hours of operation.
Police camera concerns
Dayton police also controversially activated license plate readers on all marked police cruisers earlier this year even though some citizens said the police department did not properly justify their use. The department is getting ready to deploy fixed-site license plate readers in some neighborhoods.
Police say the cameras help identify stolen vehicles and vehicles used in serious crimes. Opponents say police did not produce impartial research that suggests they reduce crime or achieve public safety goals.
Dayton Dragons eye upgrades
The Dayton Dragons this year announced plans to invest more than $16 million into renovating Day Air Ballpark, which opened in downtown Dayton about 22 years ago. The renovations will ensure the minor league baseball stadium complies with the requirements of Major League Baseball.
Improvements will include a new LED wall in the outfield, some new seating, new concession equipment and some field upgrades.
A futuristic-looking pedestrian bridge was proposed this year for the Great Miami River, connecting a current and proposed park. The proposed “unity bridge” could cost $20 million to $40 million to construct and was described in the Riverfront Master Plan as a “park-over-the-river” featuring green spaces, trees, lawns, benches and other amenities.
Funding for the project has not been secured, but conceptual renderings of the bridge generated a lot of excitement in the community.
Dayton budget fight
A Dayton City Commission meeting earlier this month became very heated after Shenise Turner-Sloss and Darryl Fairchild — two of the five commission members — abstained from voting on the 2023 budget. Turner-Sloss and Fairchild said the budget did not fund their priorities and they claimed the budget process was not transparent or inclusive.
The other three commission members accused them of being reckless and holding the city hostage and said the city faced an unprecedented shutdown. Three days later, the commission approved a temporary budget, but the dispute does not appear to be resolved.
Some major projects got underway this year, including a $31 million upgrade of the Dayton Convention Center and a new $17 million health and wellness campus on the former Good Samaritan Hospital site.
Nearly three dozen new businesses opened in downtown this year, including a beer barn, a market, a brewery and an Indian restaurant. Hundreds of new apartments are being built downtown, and three new hotels are under construction and an existing hotel by the convention center temporarily closed to transition into a new Hardrock Hotel.
Dayton and other cities across the region struggled to cope with double-digit cost increases for supplies, materials and fuel.
Dayton earlier this year reported that road reconstruction project expenses were up 15% to 30%, electric costs rose more than 20% and natural gas costs escalated by more than twice that amount. Dayton said it would have to scale back or postpone projects to address rising prices.
Dayton predicted that it could lose as much as $20 million annually in income tax revenue due to many people working from home. So far, that has not happened and the city’s income tax collections have well exceeded expectations.
But officials still warn that Dayton could see a significant impact in 2023 — possibly around $10 million — between refunds for people who work remotely and a reduction in revenue due to the shift to remote work.
Courthouse Square, DORA expansion
A new stakeholder committee has been meeting to try to come up with a plan to transform Courthouse Square in downtown Dayton into more of an activity center. Members of the group say the property is underutilized and deteriorating but with new investment it could be turned into a popular public gathering space like Fountain Square in Cincinnati, Public Square in Cleveland and Campus Martius Park in Detroit.
Local leaders also say there is strong support for expanding the boundary lines of the Oregon District Designated Outdoor Drinking Area (DORA). Inside the outdoor drinking district, people can buy alcoholic drinks at bars and carry and consume them on the street. Some businesses that are near but not in the current drinking district support expanding the boundary lines to include their establishments.
The Dayton Daily News earlier this year reported on the city’s decision to challenge workers’ compensation claims filed by city firefighters who developed cancer. The city said contesting claims is part of a routine process that ensures claims are approved or rejected based on the best medical evidence. City officials said no firefighters have been denied treatment during the appeals process.
But fire union representatives said the city’s actions have been “unconscionable” and harm firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect the community.