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A new neighborhood, from scratch

A new neighborhood, from scratch

Teri Rizvi July 09, 2019

It’s being touted as Dayton’s Imagination District, and it’s literally being drawn, one idea at a time, on an empty canvas.

Thanks to a $10.5 million investment by Premier Health and the University of Dayton and spurred by 1,300-plus ideas from Daytonians from all walks of life, an ambitious vision for the 38-acre former Montgomery County Fairgrounds is taking shape. Dubbed onMain, Dayton’s Imagination District, the property will be transformed into a walkable, welcoming urban neighborhood with a vibe.

“We think this can be a place that represents the best of innovation and creativity, a place with a collaborative spirit,” Jamie Greene, principal of Planning NEXT, told approximately 150 people at a public workshop at the University of Dayton June 27.  “This is not a retail destination or just a residential destination. It’s a place to live and work.”

As next steps, the onMain project team will apply for a rezoning of the property from open space to a mixed-use district and seek private developers and funding, said Buddy LaChance, CEO of the joint venture. This summer, a late 19th century horse barn will be relocated to Carillon Park, where it will be used to tell the history of the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, as other barns are removed and the property readied for redevelopment.

Though there’s no timeline for the first phase of construction, the initial project is envisioned as a “catalytic building” called “Think Dayton” at the corner of Main and Stewart streets that would focus largely on medical research and development, education and training — and spark other development in onMain. In all, it may take 10-15 years to build out the property with offices, housing, restaurants and shops.

As participants at the public forum viewed preliminary design schematics that showed options for buildings, streets, plazas, green space, urban agriculture and water features such as rain gardens and a splash park, they jotted down suggestions on large sheets of paper.

Some wanted more green space than the four acres dedicated in the plan. Others suggested solar tile roofs for the proposed buildings and housing. One wanted curved benches in outdoor settings to spark more casual conversations. Many appreciated recommendations for public art throughout the development and the proposed restoration of the historic Roundhouse as “Dayton’s living room” — a community gathering space for festivals and events.

The enormous level of community interest in the redevelopment of the property doesn’t surprise the urban planners.

“There’s an emotional attachment to the place,” Greene said. “Folks want a good-news story, and this effort is inspiring.  It’s a genuine commitment by two anchor institutions (UD and Premier Health), justified by how important it is to be a good community contributor.”

The next public forum is slated for Aug. 1. For more details on the initiative, visit onMain.