Roofers worked in frigid temperatures on Friday working on top of a building in the 1300 block of Central Avenue. This is one of several buildings that businessman Todd Fisher has purchased and is renovating in downtown Middletown. Fisher is seeking a Community Reinvestment Act tax abatement on several properties. He is investing a total of $200,000 to update and improve the street-level businesses and upper level apartments. ED RICHTER/STAFF

‘I really think Middletown is coming back’: Why 8 downtown properties could soon have new life

Todd Fisher, who is originally from the Dayton area, has purchased the properties and has already started working on improvements such as new roofing at one address on Central Avenue. Those properties are also located on First Avenue and on Curtis and Clark streets, according to city and county records.

“I knew I was was buying some derelict properties,” Fisher told the Journal-News in January. “These properties came fairly cheap, but they’ll require a lot of upgrading.”

Middletown City Council on Tuesday tabled eight ordinances that would have granted Fisher’s abatement requests. Council opted to table the ordinances which were introduced at the Jan. 24 meeting because Fisher could not attend Tuesday’s meeting. If Fisher is able to attend the Feb. 19 meeting, the ordinances could be considered at that time.

According to the Butler County Auditor’s Office property records, Fisher purchased three groups of parcels for a total of $360,000. Five properties were transferred on July 31, four properties were transferred on July 11 and six parcels were transferred on June 20.

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Fisher is requesting 10-year, 100 percent tax abatements on his properties, said Alexis Fitzsimmons, assistant economic development director. She said the projects would be completed by Dec. 31, 2019.

He is planning to invest an estimated $25,000 in each building to pay for improvements that include HVAC, electrical, roofing, plumbing and painting.

He said in the past, rents for units in some of the buildings were about $200 to $250 per month with utilities. After he completes the renovations, Fisher hopes double that amount to $450 to $525 a month, which is closer to market rate, he said.

“I’m a businessman, and I want to give people fair value for their dollar and improve the property values,” he said.

Fitzsimmons said Fisher will draw on his experience from being a landlord in Florida, where he still has rentals, many of which he purchased after the real estate bubble burst 10 years ago. Recently, he has been divesting in Florida to finance his Ohio acquisitions.

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Fisher lived in Florida since 1989 and was a landlord there. He returned to the area in 2014 and purchased a home in Monroe to be near family. He has since sold that home and lives in Springfield.

Fisher said that much of downtown Middletown was vacant or boarded up when he returned to the area. However, Fisher in the past couple of years, he also noticed the amount of reinvestment and the number of new businesses opening in downtown Middletown and thought this might be a good opportunity to invest in properties here.

He said the book “Hillbilly Elegy” was part of the reason he decided to invest in the city because he believes in the future of small downtowns.

“I really think Middletown is coming back,” Fisher said. “I don’t think it should be written off as a dead town.”

He said reinvesting in the city is one way to bring it back. Fisher said when one property owner improves a property, it encourages other property owners to do the same.

“It’s like a fever, everybody catches it,” Fisher said.

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The properties being considered for the CRA tax abatement are located at:

  • 1318, 1320, 1324, and 1326 Central Ave.
  • 1364, 1366, and 1368 Central Ave.
  • 1372, 1374, 1378, and 1380 Central Ave.
  • 1389 and 1391 Central Ave.
  • 12 Clark St.
  • 1720 and 1722 Central Ave.
  • 1500 First Ave.
  • 1316 First Ave. and 108-114 Curtis St.

If Middletown City Council grants the CRA abatement, the city would be required to pay the Middletown City School District 25 percent of what the school district would have received if this tax abatement not been in place.

Fitzsimmons said that amount will be determined after the Butler County Auditor’s Office does a reappraisal of the properties when improvements are completed.

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