Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, July 27, 2014

Hamilton sees new private development

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Hamilton sees new private development photo
Renovations continue at the Artspace building in Hamilton, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Hamilton sees new private development photo
Mike Dingeldein of Community Design Alliance leads a tour through the early renovations of the Artspace building in Hamilton, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Hamilton sees new private development photo
Mike Dingeldein of Community Design Alliance leads a tour through the early renovations of the Artspace building in Hamilton, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. GREG LYNCH / STAFF
Hamilton sees new private development photo
Renovations continue at the Artspace building in Hamilton, Tuesday, July 22, 2014. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

By Vivienne Machi

Staff Writer

HAMILTON —

The city of Hamilton should see several vacant buildings filled by the end of the year, as more private residents and organizations are redeveloping urban areas.

According to the 2012 five-year American Community Survey, there were 3,328 vacant structures in Hamilton, at an 11 percent vacancy rate. While the Butler County Land Bank works to acquire blighted properties, private residents and public-private partnerships are recovering still-usable properties to expand services, open restaurants, and fill housing needs.

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kenny Craig feels good about the momentum of redevelopment going forward in the city.

“Number one, I think the overall economy has improved a little bit,” he said. “Number two, the public-private partnerships have helped to spur interest from private entities to redevelop buildings and start businesses and organizations in the core area of the city.”

“Small things are starting to incite more activity,” said Community Design Alliance Director Mike Dingeldein.

Artspace Lofts

Six years in the making, Artspace Hamilton Lofts is currently undergoing rehabilitation by Messer Construction to be open for tenants tentatively in late April 2015.

The $11.7 million project at 222 High St. will contain 42 live/work units — 11 studios, 25 one-bedroom units, three two-bedroom units, and 3 three-bedroom units — as well as 3000-plus square feet of retail space and 1,800-plus square feet of community space for artists in downtown Hamilton. Minneapolis-based nonprofit developer Artspace purchased the property for more than $500,000, after using a number of criteria — including a feasibility study, a market survey, and needs analysis — to establish that Hamilton would be a good fit.

Touring the building on Tuesday , Dingeldein and City Manager Joshua Smith pointed out the preserved features, such as the tin ceiling, original oak and maple floors, and floor-length windows twisting on central pivots.

“No one can make this but us,” Smith said.

White and Dingeldein explained the economic reasoning behind bringing an arts-oriented facility to Hamilton.

“One of our first projects was Northern Warehouse, but that neighborhood was sort of like the Skid Row for St. Paul,” White said. “If you look at it from when we first acquired the Northern, and then the way the neighborhood has transformed…20 years later, you see lots of the buildings now have all been renovated and revitalized.”

“Artists draw other related businesses to the community,” Dingeldein added.

Tax credits for low-income housing and historical building restoration made Artspace an ideal choice, White and Dingeldein said.

“Tax credit applications bring 80 cents to the dollar on the project from outside the city… for that kind of housing and historical building to be rebuilt,” Dingeldein said.

White said about 9 percent of Artspace’s funding comes from low-income housing tax credits, and federal and state historic tax credits also contribute. About 10 percent of the funding comes via philanthropic fundraising partnering with the Hamilton Community Foundation. The city of Hamilton contributed $906,000 of HOME funds, about 7.5 percent of the total budget, and $191,000 via Community Development Block Grant funds, about 1.6 percent of the total budget.

Units range from 30 percent to 60 percent of area median income. White anticipates that leasing info sessions will take place in late fall 2014, and that the application process will possibly occur in late January or February to start move-ins between late April and early summer.

CORE Fund development

One commercial building owned by the nonprofit development CORE Fund, the former Elder-Beerman building at 150 High St., is under a memorandum of understanding with EMD Holdings of Cincinnati. The Cincinnati developer has until the end of October to seek tenants for the space, study redevelopment and do their due diligence. Dingeldein said that when the one-year agreement expires, the CORE Fund could agree to sell the building to EMD if the fund approves EMD’s redevelopment proposal.

CORE closed on July 15 on a sale for the former Joffe Furniture Store properties at 216 S. 3rd St. and 220 S. 3rd St., for a collective sum of $300,000 from the Pim Group LLC, according to public records.

Dingeldein said the Fund has no immediate plans for development, and he envisions the Gothic-inspired building at 216 S. Third St. as residential housing, while the corner property is “perfect for any kind of commercial building.”

Former Riverbank Café to open by late summer

Walt’s Barbeque and Riley’s restaurant owner Ken Riley said that all construction is done ahead of an anticipated August opening of J. Austin’s Riverbank Café at 102 Main St.

“Right now, we are finalizing the menu, hiring, and putting in a new point of sale,” he said.

The southern-style fare will most likely include items such as shrimp and grits and brisket, with an array of craft beers, classic cocktails, and wine by the bottle or glass. Riley anticipates new signage going up within the next two weeks. The Riverbank Café closed its doors in July 2013 before Riley and his wife, Gloria, purchased the building in March.

New High Street restaurant to open

For the first time since 2010, every property on the north side of High Street between Second and Third Street is filled. 250 High Street was sold on July 17 to Phil and Alena Wong and Anthony Cianchetti. Phil Wong, an executive chef who has worked for 26 years in the service industry, said they plan to open a breakfast and lunch restaurant, general store, and catering business in the two-story building by October 2014.

“We were looking at other properties in Hamilton, and kept going back to this one,” he said.

Wong said that the American-style dining options will be complemented by goods such as his homemade spices and jams and jellies in the general store, and brother-in-law Cianchetti’s fresh baked goods.

Children’s mental health services clinic to expand in Lindenwald

The Children’s Diagnostic Center Mental Health Services Central Clinic will move from their current office at 2100 Pleasant Ave. to the larger building at 2250 Pleasant Ave. to meet growing demands as the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion brings more patients to their clinic.

Central Clinic CEO Dr. Walter Smitson said that the clinic will close on the purchase in about two weeks, and will begin renovating the new space in anticipation of moving the practice by Oct. 1. He anticipates adding 10 to 12 more employees to the office with the move. The clinic will retain ownership of their current office, and he hopes to use it for heroin and other addiction services.

“It would sure meet an important community need,” he said.

(Staff writer Chelsey Levingston contributed to this report.)


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