$50M project called a boost to Miami Hamilton campus area

A $50 million mixed use project across the street from Miami University’s Hamilton campus is expected to have a large and lasting effect on both the university and the city.

“It’s going to have housing, it’s going to have retail, it’s going to have office (and) possibly a hotel,” said Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith, who detailed the project in Lindenwald’s northwest corner during his State of the City address Thursday at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill.

Smith said the ARK project is not only going to be “a huge boost” for Miami University’s Hamilton campus, but “a big deal” for the city due to its proximity to Lindenwald.

He said the project is the culimination of the city’s efforts over this past decade.

“This is why, in my opinion, the focus had to be on infrastructure, it had to be on job creation, it had to be on stabilizing our basic services, but we’re seeing the fruits of that labor now,” he said.

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The hardest part of strategy when it comes to Hamilton’s efforts is “you have to say ‘no’ more than you say ‘yes,’” Smith said.

“Our budget was structurally imbalanced, and we had to create a sustainable budget model,” he said. “That meant spending money on things that are not sexy, like constructing intersection improvements to improve traffic efficiency, establish a Parks Conservancy to ensure our neighborhoods had safe and clean parks, and acquire sub-par real estate which was impeding our ability to add jobs, at the same time reducing our operating spending from when it peaked in 2008.”

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By playing a long versus short game, Hamilton is in a position to do a better job of focusing on its core services, like police, fire and streets, and building complimentary services around those, Smith said.

“Those complimentary services include the Quick Strike Team, 17Strong, Department of Neighborhoods, etcetera,” he said. “While I understand the concept of instant gratification, what had to happen first was to build a sustainable financial model, so we did not spend more than we receive on an annual basis.”

Developed by Pennsylvania-based ARK Capital Partners, the project is designed to feel like a part of campus, even though it will be be privately owned.

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It will start with 100 apartments and businesses that can serve the campus’ students, as well as young professionals who work at nearby places, such as at Vora Technology Park a few blocks north.

The developer wants to feel like a part of the campus. That will allow prospective students to, in essence, live at the regional campus.

Site work for the $15 million first phase is happening now with construction expected to launch next spring, Smith said.

Cathy Bishop-Clark, the associate provost and dean of the Miami regional campuses, said she believes the project will energize the campus and that students there will be interested in it, as it allows them to be next to campus and form some community with other students.

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Miami has been expanding its number of four-year degrees on its regional campuses, and at the start of this past school year offered 18 four-year degrees, with a promise to develop more in high need industries such as health care, technology and sciences.

The 100 apartments in the first phase will be a mix of one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom units, mainly for student housing, according to Tom Drauschak, representing the ARK project.

It’s one of two projects adding new housing for Miami students. The other is in Hamilton’s downtown, in the upper floors of the former Ohio Casualty complex, where Los Angeles-based IRG (Industrial Realty Group) has been building apartments for international students in an English-immersion program on the Hamilton campus.

Drauschak previously told this news outlet that the project is “going to feel like it’s on campus.”

“To us, on our side, we’re feeling like it’s an extension of their campus,” he said.

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