City officials expect 2017 to be a momentum year for Hamilton — building on progress of recent years, but at a quicker clip.
Hamilton leaders say recent years of growth will snowball with jobs at such companies as Barclaycard, StarTek, ThyssenKrupp Bilstein and ODW Logistics, which together created more than 800 jobs in 2016. The same four are expected to create an additional 1,000 jobs in 2017.
City Manager Joshua Smith has told audiences that with all the job growth, city and community leaders are working to add a Butler County Regional Transit Authority bus route through the Second Ward and Lindenwald neighborhoods to help connect potential workers to jobs at those companies and others. ThyssenKrupp Bilstein in particular has been urging the move.
“We will continue to work with our partners at BCRTA to align bus routes to neighborhoods that may not have ready access to transportation,” Smith said. “We plan on surveying area businesses again in early 2017 to determine at what times they are looking for workforce, so we can align interested residents with businesses that need workers.”
Development near Great Miami River
Meanwhile, building on progress the city’s downtown area has seen to the east of the Great Miami River, the city and the non-profit CORE Fund (Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts) this year plan to focus on two major development areas just west of the river.
Those two developments are the stretch along Main Street for the several blocks closest to the river, and the proposed gigantic sports complex just to the north of that area called “Spooky Nook at Champion Mill,” which will occupy the former Champion Paper mill site. Architects for the project recently posted a video of what the development could look like. Spooky Nook would be expected to lure sports teams from a 3.5-hour drive away and also provide training for the county’s teams, families and individuals.
One development, at 103 Main St., which the city purchased in early 2016 for $150,000, will become a microbrewery and high-end gastropub, Smith told the Journal-News. CORE Fund is handling the lease discussions.
“A part of the lease negotiations is a condition that the new restaurant have a rooftop patio, subject to approval by a structural engineer,” Smith said. “The target is to have the restaurant by the end of summer in 2017.”
“The new establishment will be a microbrewery and higher-end gastropub, which we believe will create good synergy between Plaza One Grille, Municipal Brew Works, J. Austins (Riverbank Cafe) and Ryan’s Tavern in our downtown/Main Street area,” Smith said.
City leaders hope the Spooky Nook project can provide customers an entertainment and shopping district in the Main Street area.
The Spooky Nook facility, to be operated by the same organization that runs the nation’s largest one, near Lancaster, Pa., can help attract new residents to the city, Hamilton leaders believe.
“I think the best thing that could ever happen to us in terms of Miami (University in Oxford) is that sports complex, because that will bring the students into Hamilton,” who otherwise only tend to visit the city to shop at Meijer or Wal-Mart, Smith said in October. “If we get that sports complex, and we start bringing those students in, then we actually have a legitimate shot in my mind to capture them going forward: Capture them for, ‘Hey, if we’re going to stay in Greater Cincinnati, we can live in Hamilton once we graduate.’”
Hamilton’s cost of living is good, and today’s youth “don’t want cookie-cutter neighborhoods,” he said.
Upgrades to parks will continue
Part of Hamilton’s success in recent years has been an overall upgrade in attractiveness of places like the High-Main business corridor and other areas, particularly the city’s parks.
Steve Timmer, director of the Hamilton Parks Conservancy, said upgrades to parks will continue this year — including five new playgrounds plus a “sprayground” at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. A new pocket park at the northeast corner of High and 2nd streets, and a large downtown area, Marcum Park, will be finished this spring. The Marcum Park grand opening will be May 6, he said.
Here are where the new playgrounds will be: Millikin Woods; BTW Community Center; Veterans’ Park (a playground for children ages 5-12, adding to the existing playground for 2-to-5-year-olds); replacement of an old playground at the Smalley Boulevard Park; replacement of the playground at Benninghofen Park (near the existing splashpad); and a replacement at Darrell O. Pace Park.
Also, Timmer said he wants to make at least $50,000 in upgrades under the Americans with Disabilities Act that help the handicapped enjoy the city’s park system.