Residents debate planned gas station, convenience store in Hamilton

Calvin Jackson sat on the porch of the Knightsbridge Drive house where he has lived 37 years in Hamilton’s Second Ward and imagined additional noise he said a planned gas station and convenience store near the intersection of Central Avenue and Knightsbridge will create in the neighborhood.

“We don’t need it,” he said. “Got enough of them.”

He thinks a better use for the property would be something that would bring either comfortable housing or more economic opportunities for the downtrodden neighborhood that is hoping to benefit from Hamilton’s recent economic development that looks to be further increased by the under-construction Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill across the Great Miami River on North B Street.

Matandy Realty LTD, owned by Frank C. Pfirman Jr. of nearby Matandy Steel, won unanimous approval recently from Hamilton City Council for a conditional use on the property. The company bought various properties over several years, which had included homes and businesses. It is now an undeveloped lot.

Bob Harris, president of the South East Civic Association, a citizens group for the city’s Second and Fourth ward neighborhoods, said company representatives visited and spoke about their plans for the site.

“There was mixed emotions in the community,” Harris said. “The community felt like they weren’t notified, but they were. Right now, as far as I’m concerned, that’s a done deal.”

Harris said his association ultimately backed the project because “we felt that was a good jump-start to help attract other people, businesses, on Central Avenue. That’s where we want to start, is Central, and go down to Pershing (Avenue). We also want to see something happen in the area of Bailey Square.”

The project will include two buildings and a gasoline canopy that shelters four vehicle refueling pumps. One building will house a gasoline convenience store offering hot food and a drive-up window.

The other building also will have a drive-up window and will accommodate two retail businesses, such as a coffee shop, phone center or sandwich shop, according to a project description.

In the area where the project will be located, council’s approval was needed to place a convenience store with fuel pumps on land zoned within a community business district. The two drive-thru areas also needed approval because the project is within a neighborhood initiative area overlay district.

A Miami University class put together an economic-development plan for the Second Ward that included suggested focus on the areas SECA wants to focus on.

“I think it’s a plus,” Harris said. “I don’t see where there’s anybody who’s stepped up to the plate and talked about putting in any eateries or anything on Central Avenue or Pershing Avenue who is African-American. But that is open, and we want anybody who is African-American who has a business that would enhance the community to step up and come up with a plan.”

“We want to take a look at that plan and make it happen,” Harris added.

The Second Ward could benefit from more community involvement, he said.

“I see it as a plus, not a negative,” he said. “We don’t want anything that will pull the community down.”

The community should have input on what businesses go in the two buildings so there is confidence they will be positive for the area. The neighborhood also has to step up and decrease violence within its boundaries, he said, “because if we don’t, we’re going to be left out of the whole (economic-development) process.”

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