Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley’s State of the City address on Wednesday, Valentine’s Day, tried to show some love for the recent development successes and investments in the city, including new housing, amenities, jobs and efforts to offer universal preschool.
But Whaley acknowledged that not everything has come up roses for Dayton, such as the recent announcement that Good Samaritan Hospital will close and the community’s bitter struggle with the opioid crisis.
It “is fitting that this year’s State of the City address should fall on Valentine’s Day,” Whaley said. “It’s an honor to share with you this review of the city we all love and to highlight our accomplishments, our challenges and the opportunities that lie ahead.”
There was a lot to love about 2017, including the opening of the $64 million new downtown Dayton Metro Library, the completion of the $168 million Dayton Children’s patient tower and the addition of new housing, such as the Delco Lofts and the Brownstones at 2nd, Whaley said.
During her speech at City Hall, Whaley said the housing market continues to rebound from the Great Recession and downtown and surrounding neighborhoods are some of the hottest areas in the region.
CareSource had many options but chose to invest in Dayton, and work is underway on its new office tower on East First Street, which will house hundreds of employees, the mayor said.
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Last year, the Levitt Pavilion Dayton finished fundraising for a new outdoor music pavilion in the heart of downtown, and work began on the amphitheater. Developers have secured $9 million in state historic tax credits for the Dayton Arcade, and a $90 million project to renovate and reopen the vacant complex is headed toward the finish line, Whaley said.
“For a few decades, the arcade has been living on love alone,” she said. “We are very close to seeing this building have a new story with both new and older generations getting the chance to fall in love with it all over again.”
Using new funds from an income tax hike, the city enhanced some of its basic services, and the city last year paved more than 60 lane miles of residential streets — the most in 40 years, she said.
But though 2017 ended on some positive notes — like the arcade obtaining tax credits and the Dayton region saw decent job growth in December — the beginning of 2018 struck some rocky waters.
In January, Good Sam announced it would close, likely by the end of this year. That was “one of the toughest days I have had as mayor,” Whaley said.
She said the hospital’s shut down will impact access to health care for thousands of residents, and she’s concerned about the economic consequences on the city’s west side.
These are concerns shared by many, including Rev. Daryl Ward, senior pastor at Omega Baptist Church, who attended Wednesday’s address.
He said he was pleased to hear Whaley’s comments about needing to focus on west Dayton.
“In fact, the whole address could have been on west Dayton — the need is that great, the needs did not begin yesterday,” he told this news organization.
Whaley also said the opioid crisis continues to drain public safety resources and has hit this community harder than anywhere else in the nation.