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onMain: Dayton's Imagination District

The former Montgomery County fairgrounds has a new name and a new direction as a place that fosters imagination, innovation and inclusivity.

onMain Photo Gallery

Premier Health and the University of Dayton today announced a new name for the 38 acres at the northwest corner of Main and Stewart streets — onMain: Dayton's Imagination District — embodying a vision for the site as a place where Dayton’s history of innovation takes off into the future.

"The name represents the best of Dayton's future as well as its history of innovation," said University President Eric F. Spina. "It will be a platform to attract businesses and entrepreneurs to bring jobs and opportunities to the area as well as a sustainable and inclusive living environment with an emphasis on wellness."

Appropriately, the name — onMain — emerged from focus groups and conversations with members of the Dayton community who helped brainstorm ways a new name might express the community's aspirations for this important development, said Mary Boosalis, president and CEO of Premier Health.

“The name marks the district’s location on Main Street, and is an invitation to live onMain, work onMain, learn onMain and meet onMain,” Boosalis said. “We envision a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development with a distinct identity and personality that is open, welcoming and creative and complements the rebirth and momentum of downtown Dayton.”

Boosalis and Spina said the long-term vision for the district will take up to 15 to 20 years to fully realize, with the partners committed to developing the 38 acres as a sustainable neighborhood for economic development. As anchor institutions, UD and Premier don’t have the profit and time pressures that typical developers do.

The two institutions' long-term vision for the property allows for flexibility but reflects the input of more than 850 members of the community through the broad-based Fairgrounds to Future planning process. Key elements of the vision include:

  • A truly walkable urban neighborhood with places to work, live and gather.
  • A focus on creative, innovation and entrepreneurial activities and jobs — retail will be geared to serve those who live and work onMain. The district is not intended to be a retail and shopping destination.
  • Mixed-income housing that offers opportunities for residents to live close to where they work.
  • Design standards for buildings that integrate environmental sustainability and wellness, reflecting the mission and values of the two institutions.
  • onMain’s employers, entertainment venues and housing will draw a diverse mix of people who are representative of the broader Dayton community and its vibrant neighborhoods.
  • onMain’s initial phase will focus on creating a critical mass of employment, housing, retail, and other uses at the south end of the site along Main Street.
  • Urban agriculture would be located on land at the western end of the site and on building rooftops.
  • Restoration of the property's historic Roundhouse.
  • A "catalytic" building would be built at the northwest corner of Stewart and Main streets to spur development. 

"The vision for onMain is transformative for Dayton," said Jamie Greene, principal of planning NEXT, the planning firm hired to lead the process that culminated in the vision. "It is unlike any place in the region or the state, for that matter, with the integration of innovation-oriented employment opportunities, unique housing choices, active community gathering spaces and easy access to the river, bike trails and the core of downtown. 

"Many communities — larger and smaller than Dayton — have significant anchor institutions, but few are providing this type of commitment and leadership. The University of Dayton and Premier Health leaned into the planning process over the past year and are now leaning into deliberate and thoughtful implementation actions," he said.

As is typical with large, complex development projects that involve many community partners, a complete transformation of the property will occur in phases.

Premier Health and the University are taking steps to create a nonprofit development organization to manage the development process and provide day-to-day oversight of the property.

The two institutions purchased the 38-acre site in 2017 and have been working on a long-range vision for the property that builds upon their institutional missions and values, promotes economic development, and fosters a unique sense of place that serves broad community interests.

Outreach to potential funding sources has begun, a process that is likely to take at least 12 to 24 months before any new construction might occur on the property. Such partnerships could fund initial phases of the redevelopment, including roadways, utilities, water and sewer, and removal of some structures.

For more information, visit onMainDayton.com.

About Premier Health

Based in Dayton, Ohio, Premier Health (www.premierhealth.com) has a mission to improve the health of the communities it serves. The health system operates three hospitals: Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton with additional inpatient sites in Centerville and Englewood; Atrium Medical Center in Middletown; and Upper Valley Medical Center in Miami County. In addition, the health system offers a wide range of care choices, including virtual care; e-visits; a telestroke network and other telehealth options; an urgent care network; free-standing emergency departments; a large primary and specialty care network; and home health services. Premier Health is the second largest employer in the region and the largest health care system in Southwest Ohio. 

About the University of Dayton

Founded in 1850, the University of Dayton (www.udayton.edu) is a top-tier Catholic, Marianist research university deeply committed to the common good. Our faith is a beacon that guides us and leads us to act and build community by inviting people with diverse talents, interests and backgrounds to enrich and advance our common mission. More than 8,000 full-time undergraduates and 2,800 graduate and law students from across the country and around the world pursue learning through more than 80 undergraduate and 50 graduate and doctoral programs. The University is characterized by the Marianist educational philosophy of learning in community, welcoming all, serving others, intellectual curiosity and academic rigor, to foster servant-leaders who connect learning with leadership and service.

Cilla Shindell | University of Dayton | pshindell1@udayton.edu | 937-367-2889

Ben Sutherly | Premier Health | bwsutherly@premierhealth.com | 937-524-3264


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