We are in a fight for our lives and those of our futures.
What really makes West Dayton, “West Dayton?” I struggle to answer this question because my heart for it often gets distracted by my eyes. When looking around, I see a region choked by poverty. I see families struggling to survive because jobs fail to provide employment that offers decent lifestyles. I see neighborhoods filled with run-down houses, worn-out buildings, and neglected land due to divestment by businesses and government. I see too many potholes, fast food restaurants, Patron advertisements, deceased loved ones on billboards, cages in Kroger, and shootings in the street. A feeling of despair seems to creep on every corner, but some see opportunity within it.
In an area that lacks so much of what is needed for a community to thrive, (i.e., quality jobs, healthy food, decent housing, adequate schools) the development of just about anything may seem beneficial. Institutions like CityWide Development, Greater Dayton Premier Management, the City of Dayton, and their few “philanthropists” swoop in with projects, already in their 5th year of maturity, to “save the day.”
We celebrate the libraries they build, the grocery store they deliver, and the streets the reconstruct without seriously planning the future of our own communities. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, many of their plans fail to account for the security or development of the people with the land. This combination becomes the spark of gentrification and ultimately, displacement.
The West Dayton Neighborhoods Vision explicitly says, “The planned closure of Hilltop Homes and re-developing [to] a mixed-income neighborhood in Miami Chapel where DeSoto Bass currently exists provides an opportunity to deconcentrate poverty. By broadening access to opportunity and improving the public realm to create desirable neighborhoods to live, work, and play, West Dayton can provide a continuum of residential options.” In other words, West Dayton’s largest projects are about to be forcibly transformed into mixed-income areas to make them more “desirable.”
That begs the questions, if people with more money are coming in, where will low-income families be placed? In my opinion, many of our friends, family, and community members will be required to move to Trotwood, West Carrolton, Moraine, Huber Heights, Beavercreek, and whatever suburb will accept us. This trend is not only true for those of us in housing projects. Folks throughout West Dayton must also prepare themselves for the rising costs of living, influx of different demographics, and takeover of physical space which may plague our side of town.
The Northwest Dayton Neighborhoods Vision seeks to revitalize neighborhoods “despite the challenges stemming from concentrations of poverty and a disadvantaged workforce.” Alongside the $12 million reconstruction of Salem Avenue, developers have planned a $30 million project at the Longfellow School, the Phoenix Project continues to plan the Good Samaritan Hospital Area, and North Main St will get a major face lift.
The West Dayton Neighborhoods Vision has a goal to “harness expanding residential and commercial market forces and vibrancy near downtown and pull them deeper into West Dayton,” by “bolstering density in specific areas, while reducing it in others to support a vibrant community, strengthen green space, and reduce blight.” After completion of the $16 million Third St Bridge reconstruction, you’ll start to see more development from Edwin C Moses Blvd to West Town Plaza including development along the north side of Third St, a Wright Company Factory site, and beautification surrounding the Veterans affairs campus.
Then, the Carillion-Edgemont Neighborhood Plan has already started to see the development of a bike yard at Welcome Park and will get some support from the Renew Miami Chapel Plan as well as Madden Hills, Pineview, and Lakeview. These plans will drive a gigantic $89 million overhaul of the community.
I cannot stress enough the importance of becoming aware and actively engaged in the development of Dayton. With plans already unfolding, it is imperative that the residents of West Dayton fortify themselves in the community or be prepared to start anew in unfamiliar lands. We must consider if West Dayton worth fighting for? What legacies of culture, people, places, and events attach us to the land we inhabit? Who will champion the survival of West Dayton residents? What can we do to protect ourselves, our homes, our communities, and our future? What environment do we want to create for our children? Asking ourselves these questions will hopefully draw us to the same conclusion… Our destiny lies in our hands.
We already know that our situation is messed up, and our conditions, traumatic. We know that developers, banks, institutions, and “philanthropists” will take advantage of our low property values, poor access to resources, inadequate information, and systemic inequities. It is obvious that there are people in our community who, unknowingly or knowingly, work against the very interests which they claim to represent. But what are we going to do about it?
Are we going to lay idle while they exploit us for our labor, confuse us with their propaganda, and trick us with their “acts of kindness?” Or are we going to be soldiers, ready to seize the day, protect our communities, and collectively develop ourselves? Our ancestors would be ashamed if we allowed our communities to be displaced by gentrification. We are in a fight for our lives and those of our futures. We must act now and plan now for all of West Dayton is at stake.