People have been noticing a blossoming of businesses on the street levels of Hamilton’s High Street downtown, but what’s happening upstairs is another sight to behold.
Some visually impressive spaces are being created, or already exist, along Hamilton’s High Street in older buildings that suddenly feel very new.
Construction crews have been updating the interior of the former Fifth Third building at 2 S. Third St., where Kirsch CPA Group LLC relocated on Monday from Fairfield, with other businesses also preparing to move into a renovated space.
ODW Logistics occupies an equally impressive space on the sixth floor of 345 High St., the same building where Hamilton’s city offices are located.
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And LemonGrenade Creative, a visual design studio, recently signed a new three-year lease for its space at 10 Journal Square, just off High Street.
“We love being downtown, right in the middle of what’s going on,” said Brian Woods, vice president of human resources and risk management for the 66-employee ODW Logistics. “That’s really important.”
Another plus is having a very visible sign on the tower the company occupies as motorists drive westward along High Street.
Thommy Long, owner of LemonGrenade, said he always loved the Robinson Schwenn Building, which the business now occupies, “but I assumed that I could never afford it, and so we looked at 20 to 30 different properties.”
When they looked at the space they now are in, “this space was just floor-to-ceiling garbage — there was probably 100 desks and 100 chairs, and broken windows, and dead birds and all kinds of stuff,” he said. “We’ve been here 3½ years, and just signed another three-year lease.”
While the office spaces look beautiful, there’s something that pleases Mike Dingeldein, who has played a part in the area’s revitalization, even more.
“I’m more happy with who’s in them than how they’re designed,” said Dingeldein, director of the CORE (Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts) Fund. “Just having those kinds of creatives and professional tenants looking for space in Hamilton is a great sign. For Kirsch to be moving here is wonderful, and Thommy Long, with LemonGrenade, he could have gone anywhere.”
“I think he had it down to Over-the-Rhine and downtown Hamilton, and he picked downtown Hamilton. How great is that, that we’re attracting new and creative businesses into Hamilton?” Dingeldein said.
The city has asked ODW “what are some of the things our employees would like to see downtown, not only restaurants and things like that, but parks and concert series space, and volunteer opportunities,” Woods said.
“I take our new employees on a walk on their first day, every time, and we parade around the whole downtown,” Woods added. “If you don’t go off of High Street, if you’re just driving, you miss a lot of things.”
A lot of the company’s employees attended Miami University in Oxford, and “that’s all they do, is drive Ohio 129, High Street and Main Street — they don’t venture off, even a block,” Woods said.
The CORE Fund stabilized the Fifth Third building and then sold it to Historic Developers, which did the renovation. Community Design Alliance, owned by Cindy and Mike Dingeldein, served as architect and interior designer for the project.
“They’re contemporary, new kinds of spaces with bright colors and fabrics, and finishes, and lots of daylight,” Dingeldein said. “They turned out very interesting.”
“The buildings are all good buildings,” he said. “That’s part of it: Even though they were dirty, tired and abandoned, they weren’t dead yet. It was nice to be able to start with something kind of cool in each case.”
“For the most part, we’re talking about those buildings nearing 100 percent occupancy, so there isn’t a lot of space left downtown, even on the upper levels,” he said.
There still is space in the STARTEK building, formerly occupied by the Elder-Beerman department store. There’s about 14,000 square feet available on the High Street level and 25,000 on the Market Street level in that building. The second story of the former Fifth Third building also is available.
Also coming available is the Butler Tech School of the Arts building, formerly the Journal-News building. Also still available is the former Ohio Casualty building,
Upper-floor levels along Main Street also are available, but those are being developed for residences, with the exception of the Quarter Barrel building at Main and South B streets, which is operated by the microbrewery and restaurant on all levels.