A Gateway To Success?

Dayton Sees Restaurant Site, Park As Keys To Economic Development

Posted: February 9, 2013

Dayton Town Manager John Crim examines the interior of a property at 245 Main St. the town is developing as a restaurant that will be sold to a private interest. Town officials are hoping this and other development projects will make Dayton a destination for locals and visitors alike. (Photos by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
Dayton Town Manager John Crim surveys the area of the old Jim’s Drive-In Restaurant on College Street where a new park is planned. Town officials hope to have the park ready by this fall’s Autumn Celebration, which takes place in October.
DAYTON — With assistance and endorsement from residents, Dayton is moving forward on projects aimed at recharging its economy. 
Town officials champion a building at 245 Main St. and the plot behind it as the key to restoring Dayton as a destination for travelers.
“This is probably our biggest project that the town has ever pursued,” said Mayor Charles Long.
The town purchased the plots in January 2012 for $252,000 with the intention of renovating the space for use as a restaurant, which would be sold to private interests.
So far, the town has spent about $23,225 on the property, about $18,025 of which was on the parking lot, according to Dayton Treasurer Justin Moyer. The costs did not include demolition and abatement.
The blue-washed, red-brick building, which town officials believe was built in the late 1880s or 1890s, has been gutted.
Scrapped, chipped and mostly empty, the building awaits its resurrection, and the town awaits a buyer.  
“We really feel, and are sold on it, that with working with a potential owner on this, we will resurrect our entire town,” said Long, who added the town hopes to find a buyer within the year.
APR Associates of Harrisonburg has designed four potential plans for the project, all which create a dining room upstairs and a bar area below.
The version approved by Town Council would require an owner to build onto the back of the two-story building.
“To the right person, we could very friendly,” said Dayton Town Manager John Crim, who added that the “right person” would have experience operating a successful restaurant.
This design stems from the desires of Dayton residents surveyed last year by James Madison University’s Partners in Community Leadership program.
Residents overwhelmingly asked for a good place to eat, Crim said, and a substantial number wanted an establishment where they could have a beer or a glass of wine. To complement this economic development, the Dayton administration intends to draw traffic from the interstate by increasing signage and rest area advertising.
“We want to put Dayton back on the map, where it was in the ’50s and ’60s,” Crim said.
Crim is specifically targeting “snowbird” traffic, the folks who travel from the Northeast to Florida in the fall then return north in the spring.
“Once they stop in, the intent is that they’ll stop in regularly,” Crim said.
Last year, Dayton advertised for its Autumn Celebration by hanging banners at the southbound rest area on Interstate 81 near New Market and at the one on northbound I-81 near Mount Sidney.

The banners, which hung a week before the celebration, worked, Crim said, and people wandered from the interstate to Dayton’s festival, which included 350 vendors.
This year’s celebration is scheduled to be held in October at a new site, with the expected completion of a park at 360 College St., Dayton’s other pet project.
The park will include a wide-open field with a stage or pavilion, designed to invoke the memory of the Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music, on the northwest end of town, officials said.
The park also is designed to be within eyesight of the Heritage Museum and the Harrison House, among the oldest buildings in Rockingham County.
“The idea was to come up with a venue where that would all be visible,” Crim said.
The plot, bought by the town for $158,000 in December 2011, was designated for use as a park as part of the purchase agreement.
So far, the town has spent about $23,500 on the park, including excavating costs, fencing and design and planning, according to Moyers.
Town officials hope to have an estimate for the park’s completion before March, Crim said. The budget allots $60,000 for the project for this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
“We feel like that’s more than substantial,” he said. 
If all goes as planned, construction could start in May so that the park is ready to host the Autumn Celebration in the fall.
The town hired EI Group Inc. out of Morrisville, N.C., for demolition and abatement for both projects, which so far have cost about $96,000, Moyers said.
Dayton plans on paying for the projects from tax and water and sewer revenues.
Contact Alex Rohr at 574-6293 or arohr@dnronline.com

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