Downtown Middletown looks to build upon whirlwind growth

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Downtown Middletown looks to build upon whirlwind growth

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Downtown Middletown Inc. Executive Director Mallory Greenham reviews the organization’s and the city’s successes for 2016, including helping scores of businesses to open along Central Avenue, and outlines the groups’ strategic plan for 2017 during a meeting at the Middletown Historical Society, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

The growth of Downtown Middletown — both the organization and the physical location — continues on an upward trajectory with a whirlwind momentum that shows little sign of slowing.

That was the message delivered Thursday by Mallory Greenham, Downtown Middletown Inc.’s executive director, during the non-profit organization’s annual meeting, which celebrated its successes and looked toward the coming year with renewed optimism.

New businesses sprouting up along downtown’s formerly dormant Central Avenue numbered 23 in 2016, with only a smattering of places in that total being businesses that changed ownership and, as a result, their name, Greenham said.

“I’m not going to say how many I think are going to open in 2017, but I hope it’s more than last year,” she said. “I think we’ve got tons of room to grow.”

The type of businesses coming to downtown are services that people are wanting, like Haven Yoga & Wellness Studio and MC Hair Salon, as well as places to socialize, like West Central Wine.

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WHAT’S NEW IN DOWNTOWN MIDDLETOWN?

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“I think the quality of businesses has really amped up and the new business owners … almost all of them are female, and they’re younger and they’re all from Middletown,” she said. “It’s people who have moved away, come back and identified that Middletown as a good place to start business as a young entrepreneur.”

Greenham said Downtown Middletown started the year off right with an ambitious and aggressive Strategic Plan and finally hit its stride as a program this year with the completion of the downtown Master Plan.

That plan, already presented during a January meeting of Middletown City Council, is scheduled to go before the city’s planning commission in March before coming back to council for adoption and eventual implementation.

“It’ll be a working document for the city of Middletown that every department — streets department, planning and zoning — it’s something that everyone will use,” she said. “It was really important for all of us to be on the same page about what we wanted to see downtown.”

Downtown Middletown also moved into a new office at 1050 Central Ave., built and launched a new website and collaborated on “as many efforts and initiatives in and around Middletown as possible,” Greenham said.

Last year also saw Downtown Middletown work toward achieving the status of an official Main Street Program, something Greenham called “a long time coming.”

“I’m really excited to be here to help push it over the finish line but I definitely didn’t do it alone,” she said.

Being a Main Street community is similar to being named an All-American city, in that it increases the amount of training opportunities as an organization, and involves getting help from the National Trust, Heritage Ohio and other organizations.

“It’s a feather in the cap for the community,” Greenham said. “We can get signages for the exits and it opens up our community to heritage tourism.

“It’s just another way to say that your community has shown that it knows how to work together to collaborate and you’ve got something going on here,” she said.

It also means that Downtown Middletown Inc. will likely work to rename itself something along the lines of Main Street Middletown or Middletown Main Street in the coming several months, Greenham said.

Many of the duties of Downtown Middletown Inc. are below the surface, Greenham said. In the last year, DMI fielded 129 inquiries on everything from facade grants, microloans and renting space to permitting and a general sharing of ideas.

“I’m constantly meeting with people and it’s really exciting,” she said.

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MORE NEW BUSINESSES IN DOWNTOWN MIDDLETOWN

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