Sinclair Architecture Students Partner with DP&L to Improve Downtown Dayton First Floor Spaces

On January 26, the Downtown Dayton Partnership, along with its partners at DP&L, The Architectural Group, Helmig Lienesch, and Sinclair College, announced a pilot program targeting first-floor spaces for commercial business and provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs and students to grow in downtown's creative community.

The announcement comes in response to high demand for these spaces, but a diminishing supply that are move-in ready. Many barriers inhibit revitalization efforts to activate more first-floor storefronts. Common snags include lack of site readiness and insufficient architectural and engineering knowledge about what it will take to make a site move-in ready.

The first phase of the pilot program will employ interns in architectural and engineering fields at Sinclair to assess the current condition of each space and develop designs to bring the vacant first-floor space back to productive use. The second phase will enlist student help to actually build-out one downtown vacant first-floor space into a move-in-ready, blank canvas for a new tenant.

Using a $25,000 Regional Economic Development Grant  from DP&L, this pilot program will produce several measurable outcomes:

  • Complete inventory of downtown Dayton's first-floor spaces so small businesses can make more informed decisions about which spaces will best suit their needs.
  • Increase assistance to property owners to accomplish the technical work required before tackling any renovations.
  • Lower pre-development costs for small businesses that want to open a business in a vacant, first-floor space.
  • Create additional first-floor spaces in downtown Dayton to meet the growing demand from entrepreneurs requesting smaller, move-in-ready workplaces.

In addition to the unique aspect of using public-private partnerships to increase small business occupancy for first-floor spaces, the program will support attraction and retention of college graduates through civic engagement and new internships with local professional services firms. "Sinclair's architecture, civil engineering and construction management tech students will be able to get hands-on experience working with local design firms while making a positive impact in their community," said project partner Charlie Setterfield, associate professor of architectural technology at Sinclair College. Setterfield will manage the student portion of the program, which will provide students with real-world experience assessing conditions, creating as-built drawings, performing code analysis, developing estimates, and generating designs that incorporate LEED elements.

With funding and other working commitments secured, work with the Sinclair interns is already under way. "These students are arming property owners with important tools they'll need to lease first-floor spaces," Gudorf said. "They're generating CAD drawings, they're parsing building codes and zoning requirements to figure out what kinds of tenants would be best for these spaces, they're estimating other investments to the spaces like upgrading the HVAC equipment -- these interns are getting on-the-job experience and property owners are saving thousands to prepare their sites for new tenants."

DP&L said the project was awarded the competitive RED Grant because of its potential impact not only for property owners and small businesses, but for overall vibrancy of downtown Dayton. "This program will help activate first-floor spaces in downtown Dayton, which is a critical element of the continued revitalization of the center city and its larger economic impact on the Miami Valley," said DP&L Operations Manager Georgene Hall Dawson. "The benefits reach beyond Dayton; other municipalities DP&L serves could adapt this program to revitalize their downtown spaces, as well. We're happy to support a program with potential to affect more communities."