Attorney says city forgot about some residents in Anthony Wayne building project

Concern is for dozens with fixed incomes who need affordable housing.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

An attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio says some of Hamilton’s residents are being forgotten as a new boutique hotel is planned on South Monument Street.

Jonathan Ford told the Journal-News they’ve connected with people that live in about 20 of the 40 occupied units at the Anthony Wayne Apartments, and said the city never took them into consideration during the revitalization of the near-100-year-old building.

Vision AWH LLC is renovating the apartment building, that was originally built as a hotel, into The Well House Hotel, which will be one of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton boutique properties. The $16 million project will gut the building and build it out with 54 rooms, and bring in a yet-to-be-named restaurant.

“We’re sort of forgetting about part of the community when we’re talking about improvements to the community,” Ford said about the tenants of the Anthony Wayne before Wednesday night’s meeting.

Fellow Legal Aid attorney Lori Elliot said tenants’ rents range from $575 a month to $900 a month, and most fall in the $700 to $750 a month range, and all include utilities. But most are on fixed incomes or receive some type of disability benefit, and many are spending more than half of their monthly income on rent.

Many have lived in downtown Hamilton for years, if not decades, and to remain downtown will require more than what they can afford. Elliot said for a one-bedroom in Hamilton, “you’re not going to find anything close to $750 (a month),” which doesn’t include utilities.

“I’ve heard people say they’ve got several months to find something, but they’re looking for something, for a lot of them, that doesn’t exist,” she said.

Tenants have been given until November to move out of the building as construction for the redevelopment is planned to start in the first quarter of 2023.

John Wilson told City Council on Wednesday it’s “next to impossible” for him to find a place to live without paying three-months rent up front, which he said most require. He pays $650 a month at the Anthony Wayne and after other expenses, such as medical bills and groceries, his monthly income is nearly gone.

He also said the current owner has not given them any assistance or help.

Lisa Irwin told City Council she is likely one of the few exceptions who won’t have an issue relocating from the Anthony Wayne. While she admits the hotel project will benefit the city, the city has not considered the needs of the residents of the apartment.

“I live in a community with these people, I’ve come to know them, care about them ... I rub shoulders with them every day and they just want a roof over their head,” she said.

Since the announcement in May, the tenants have suffered a lot of stress and panic as “they just don’t know what they’re going to do.”

“Personally, I think the hotel is excellent for the city,” she said. “I’ll be sad to leave there, but I’ll be even sadder if any one of those people end up on the streets through no fault of their own. (The hotel is) going to be awesome for the city, but there’s a dark side to it, too.”

City Manager Joshua Smith said Hamilton leaders need to assist the current owner of the Anthony Wayne building “to identify appropriate agencies which can assist residents who are in need of relocation assistance.”

“One of the biggest gaps we heard this evening was that several residents indicated prospective landlords need three months of rent when they sign their lease,” Smith said. “Affordable housing is an issue, and it becomes more serious by the day in Butler County. We need to encourage areas that have greenfield development opportunities to consider affordable housing that provides access to groceries, public transportation, jobs and public amenities.”

Hamilton City Council voted on June 22 on a development agreement with Vision AWH LLC, and the city plans to use tax increment financing funds, and provide a partially forgivable $3 million loan through the Hamilton Community Improvement Corporation. Council voted to transfer the $3 million to the Hamilton CIC on Wednesday.

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