Downtown Dayton isn’t a dazzling neon wonderland like midtown Manhattan. In fact, its lights shine less bright than even a significant number of medium-sized Midwestern cities.
But downtown Dayton has energy, diversity, arts and culture and unmatched convenience, according some of its newest residents.
They say they were lured downtown because it boasts some big-city perks, including walkability and close proximity to amenities like RiverScape MetroPark, the river, minor league baseball and the nation’s largest paved bike trail network.
There’s hip places to dine and drink as well as small shops that sell funky gifts like dinosaur taco holders.
Downtown Dayton’s attractions, which draw nearly 7.5 million visitors, are multiplying and there’s still more to come, like the outdoor music amphitheater the Levitt Pavilion Dayton.
Dayton over Florida
Since 1979, Andrew and Terri Feeser lived in a home on a private road in Beavercreek.
They were happy there. But both are retired and were itching for a change.
Several years ago, they were walking around downtown during a festival and were impressed by the changing urban landscape.
Last spring, they started in earnest to hunt for downtown places.
They once considered moving to Florida to retreat from Ohio’s frosty winters.
But sellers in the Sunshine State “want a goldmine” for homes even though most were built in the 1950s and have only one or two bedrooms, one bath and no garage, said Andrew, 69, who retired from the tool trade.
They looked at some downtown condos around Second and Harries streets, but decided they were not big enough and felt too much like apartments.
But then Charles Simms Development, the leading builder of new single-family housing downtown, unveiled a new, higher-end townhouse product near Warped Wing Brewing called City View.
The Feesers moved into one of the townhomes in January.
Andrew and Terri wanted a lower cost of living than Beavercreek and felt it was time to downsize from their 2,700-square-foot home.
Their City View townhome is about 1,800 square feet with a garage.
“We had to make a change,” Andrew said. “It’s a lot cheaper in Dayton than in Greene County, and there’s a lot more things here.”
“And I said, ‘If we can buy a new one, let’s do it,” he said.
Andrew said they ended up buying their home for about $344,000, which was more than they originally set out to spend.
The new homes have a 15-year abatement on property taxes, which means buyers see considerable cost savings on their tax bills.
Buying a new home also should mean there won’t be many major maintenance costs for years to come, and there’s other savings of moving to Dayton from Beavercreek, including lower home insurance costs, Andrew said.
The Feesers hope to get rid of one of their cars someday soon and firmly believe their home will hold its value.
But it’s more than just financial considerations that prompted their move.
They only have to travel a couple of blocks to dine at restaurants in the Oregon District. It’s a short walk to the shows they attend at the Schuster Center and Victoria Theatre. They enjoy picking up goodies at the 2nd Street Market. And they’re looking forward to attending Dayton Dragon’s games.
Andrew said the convenience of living downtown is incredible. He said it’s a delight not to have to climb behind the wheel for every little trip.
Also, living downtown doesn’t feel isolated, Andrew said.
Andrew also is pleased that he no longer has endless outdoor chores and responsibilities, like cleaning gutters, trimming trees and pulling weeds.
“It’s the mildew problems, it’s the mold, it’s the moss on the sidewalks — it was an everyday battle,” he said. “Here, we don’t have that.”
The pull of the arts
Burt and Alice Saidel also downsized when they purchased a home at Monument Walk for about $522,000 in January 2017.
The Monument Walk homes are four stories tall and Saidel’s home is 3,200 square feet, not counting a two-car garage.
Previously, the Saidels lived in a five-bedroom mansion in Harrison Twp. that they designed and built. The home was 4,512 square feet, according to Realtor.com, which they eventually sold for $70,000 less than they put into the place in 1968.
The Saidels moved to Monument Walk so they could age in place and because it met their individual needs.
They also have an insatiable appetite for the arts and wanted to be closer to the activities they love.
They have season tickets to 13 different arts and cultural series, including the opera, the symphony, the ballet and the local theaters. Burt and Alice have served on dozens of boards for local charitable organizations.
“This is paradise,” Burt said. “We’ve built quite a home — not just the physical home, but it’s our friends and how active we are in so many ways.”
Burt, 87, ran a well-known dental practice on Valley Street near Dayton Children’s Hospital. He retired about 17 years ago. Alice is 82.
But Burt and Alice show no signs of slowing down.
Last month, Burt would have traveled to Baltimore to defend the championship title he holds for the 60 meter dash in the men over 80 group. However, he was sidelined owing to a shoulder injury he suffered while skiing in New York.
Remaining active is extremely important to Burt. He frequently exercises and runs at the downtown YMCA across the street from his home. The Saidels walk all over the center city.
Burt and Alice looked at other downtown housing, but the units felt too cramped and Burt wanted to be able to be noisy without worrying about disturbing his neighbors.
Burt is an expert woodworker who makes furniture and other items that he gifts to his synagogue, Temple Israel, and many other groups. A couple of years ago, he built a wooden display case for the University of Dayton, and he also built a podium for the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra.
The Saidels turned what would have been a first-floor bedroom into Burt’s work shop. Burt dedicates his woodworking to his son, David Saidel, who was killed at the age of 22 in a car crash in Greece.
They also have space to host artists who come to town for performances and events. Opera singers routinely stay with the Saidels. The Claremont Trio, a young chamber group, has lodged with the Saidels on about nine occasions.
And their new home comes with other conveniences. It has an elevator, which means their relatives with limited mobility can have a comfortable visit. Their daughter, who is disabled and resides in a residential living facility in Dayton, is a regular guest.
Burt’s one regret is they didn’t get around to relocating sooner.
”Maybe we did this five or 10 years too late,” he said. “We knew we had to downsize and do this at some point.”
Right-sizing the home
Downtown’s housing has proven particularly attractive to older couples who’s kids are grown up and who want to downsize.
Greg Greening and his wife, Jill, would not have moved if they still had children at home and if there wasn’t so much growth and redevelopment happening downtown.
“We became empty-nesters and really didn’t need 3,400 square feet and a half acre lot to take care of any longer,” said Greg, who is the new owner of a City View townhouse. “When looking to downsize we always found ourselves downtown at the restaurants and bars around town and decided to focus on the area.”
Michael Carpenter, who also purchased a City View townhouse, said he and his wife, Nyssa, originally planned to move from Tipp City to a custom-built home on a plot of land in Bethel Twp.
But they attended the downtown housing tour last year and were riveted by the City View project, especially its location. They were already spending a lot of time downtown to enjoy shows, entertainment and dining.
They decided to move to a home that is very close to destinations including the new downtown Dayton Metro Library, the Oregon District, Fifth Third Field, the river, bike trails and a variety of breweries and restaurants.
They also wanted to reduce their footprint and the amount of time they spend on the upkeep of their property, so they’d have more freedom to do they things they love, like biking and kayaking.
“It really fits into the lifestyle that we wanted,” he said.