Community First moves forward on downtown relocation


Community First moves forward on downtown relocation

The next year could see another big change in the downtown landscape as Community First Solutions and the city begin working on a section of Third Street.

Community First Solutions is moving ahead with preliminary plans to occupy the former Ringel’s Furniture building at the corner of Third and Ludlow, while the city prepares to demolish a vacant building on the east side of Third Street, a half a block away, to make room for its employees to park.

According to Danielle Webb, Community First’s vice president of business strategy, the group’s board of directors has approved placing its current headquarters at 520 Eaton St. on the market and has authorized architects to move forward with construction drawings to modify the building to meet its needs.

Community First, a group of nonprofits offering various health and wellness services, was given the former six-story, 30,000-square-foot Ringel’s building at 223 S. Third St. by the Ringel family in November 2012. The retail store there closed in 2006.

The timing of the move, Webb said, depends on how quickly they can sell the current building, which is located next to Fort Hamilton Hospital, but she expects that can be done within the next six to eight months.

“Fortunately, since it is an old furniture store, the floors are all fairly open so there won’t be a lot of tearing down of walls, so it is essentially a blank canvas,” she said. “But there still will be some cost in updating the building and renovating it.”

She said Community First will stay true to the art deco ambiance of the building and not make a lot of changes to the exterior.

“We plan to create a presentation and training space on the first floor, something that would be available for community use,” Webb said. “We have 650 employees around the county, and we constantly struggle to have a neutral space for employee training and meetings.”

She said that one of the upper floors will remain empty for future growth, but the remaining four floors will serve as offices for its central office employees, which currently numbers around 45 but is expected to increase to 65-70 within the next 36 months.

Webb said that one of the major concerns about the move was providing something other than on-street parking for its employees.

In anticipation of that move, the board of Hamilton’s Community Improvement Corporation this week approved the purchase of a sliver of property and a building on S. Third Street that was formerly Dattilo’s Produce for $45,000.

The purchase will allow the city to reconfigure the parking lot it acquired as part of the purchase of the Historic Journal-News Building and, upon the demolition of the Dattilo’s Produce building, create 31 additional parking spaces in the same block as the Ringel’s building.

“Not only does it improve the aesthetics of the area, but it improves our ability to aggregate the parking better,” said Jody Gunderson, the city’s director of economic development.

The deal for the building includes an agreement that the seller, the RedHawk Group, would make a charitable donation of $15,000 to an entity that will be agreed upon by the city of Hamilton.

“Hopefully, this will be to a nonprofit that will benefit our objectives in the downtown business district,” Gunderson said.

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