The Hub rises: Abundance and new beginnings in the old Arcade
To compare the transformation of the Dayton Arcade to a phoenix rising from the ashes hardly begins to capture the magnitude of what’s taking place in the city that is home to the University of Dayton. Unlike in recent years — which found this historic block of buildings derelict and often open to the elements — now the only birds you’ll find in the space are turkeys. Painted statues of them sit on lofty perches above the atrium against a backdrop of intricate molding, with the blue sky beyond the glass ceiling.
“Turkeys are a sign of abundance,” said Vince Lewis, director of the L. William Crotty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and the first official University resident of the renovated space downtown. The walls and ceiling of the rotunda are adorned with reliefs of cornucopias overflowing with colorful fruits and vegetables, all restored to when they were original to the historic building.
[Read about the Arcade renovation in this 2019 UD Magazine feature.]
After its grand opening in 1904, the once vibrant, bustling Arcade sat empty for nearly the last 30 years. In April 2019, the University agreed to become an anchor tenant and a driving force behind the redevelopment and restoration of the Dayton landmark. A celebration March 4 will signal the beginning of its rise, a visible connection between the region’s innovative past to the current creative energy in business, research, education, health care and the arts.
The juxtaposition of old and new can be found throughout each renovated space. Elements from the original buildings include exposed brick, metal beams, unfinished wood planks and the early 20th century linoleum that covers the original stair treads leading to the lower level of the building. These are blended with the modern functionality of the new furniture, fixtures and spaces designed to provide a vibrant workspace for everyone from small start-ups and community groups to artists and students.
Lewis said there is intentionality in the collaborative environment aimed to spark cross-creativity and community. This connection is evident in the name — The Hub powered by PNC Bank — which is the 100,000-square feet of the Arcade that the University will help occupy.
“The Hub is a game changer in many ways — for UD, for the city of Dayton and for our start-up ecosystem,” Lewis said. “More tenants start to move in this week. In the fall when our students are taking classes here, with the tenants and staff already working in The Hub, we will likely have 300 to 400 people in here every day. The vibrancy and energy of the space will transform. It will be the vision we set out to create.”
“It will be the vision we set out to create.”
To accommodate this confluence of productivity, the new infrastructure is state of the art. WiFi6 enables a signal to penetrate the 3-foot-plus foundation walls of the lower level, even as the exposed metal support beams line the ceiling. Air media provides wireless access to classrooms, technology and even a way-finder system designed to be used with a smart phone to show a map of the building and navigation to help find an office, classroom or the coffee shop — if you’re not close enough to smell your way there. A geothermal HVAC system keeps the environment comfortable and is energy efficient. Workspaces are open and accessible. Learning spaces are adaptable and inviting. Both feed off the energy of the city streets that can be seen from many areas and from the diversity of people who will inhabit the spaces.
Intended as a place to offer opportunities for new businesses to grow, the Arcade will feature food and beverage vendors run by West Dayton entrepreneurs to supply the coffee shop. The UD student-run Flyer Enterprises will run the coffee shop, providing business skills and life lessons to student employees.
The Crotty Center, UD’s Institute of Applied Creativity for Transformation and The Entrepreneurs Center are currently moving into office space in the Arcade. Later this spring, the Department of Art and Design will move some faculty and staff downtown as well. A new gallery space is being completed to display a combination of student and community art.
Beginning this fall, students from several disciplines will visit the Arcade space for classes including all of the core curriculum classes in entrepreneurship as well as some core School of Business Administration classes and electives. Upper-level art and design studios will be utilized, and capstones from across campus will be engaged in the GEMnasium space, an extension of the campus laboratory that serves as a transdisciplinary incubator for social innovation that has transformed learning for students from all areas of the University.
Transportation from campus to the Arcade will be provided free of charge on The Flyer, the Dayton Regional Transit Authority’s dedicated fleet of buses that run a continuous loop between campus, downtown Dayton and many retail and entertainment locations in between.
Commitment and cooperation between the University, the Dayton community and local, regional and state organizations have come together in partnership to make the revitalization of the Arcade a long-awaited reality, Lewis said. The city of Dayton provided a $10 million commercial loan to three development team partners to get the project started. The intent to combine commercial, retail, residential, academic and shared community space marked the biggest investment in downtown development in more than 15 years.
It’s yet another manifestation of how the University is “of Dayton” in more than just name.
“It’s hard to say what the future holds,” Lewis said, “but our hope is that this space becomes the central nervous system of highly developed start-up ecosystem that connects entrepreneurs, investors and others with students. That will lead to networking opportunities, internships, employment after college, and even some students creating their own ventures.
“I think The Hub can very well change how ‘town’ and ‘gown’ relationships are viewed going forward. Most everyone from my generation who grew up in Dayton has some memory of this space. Having an opportunity to be part of its transformation has been the highlight of my career.”
Perhaps one of the most synergistic elements of the renovation can be found in a second-floor conference room that overlooks the atrium. The sleek black chairs, crisp white walls and a large video screen convey modern, elegant design. The wall of glass overlooks the atrium ringed by a web of windows. And in the center of the room, the table is constructed from a door reclaimed from the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception during its restoration. How appropriate that a door from the building at the heart of campus, open and welcoming to all, now sits in a space in the Arcade, the heart of downtown Dayton, ready to open and be welcoming to all again.
For information about the public grand opening virtual event 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 4, click here.
Pre-renovation photos by Kevin Lush; current photos of the Arcade by Larry Burgess.