Smith said the letter was needed to “make Hilton comfortable that the developer has the project secure as they go through their due diligence process,” which is primarily to perform Phase II of an environmental survey. The due diligence phase will take up to 180 days, according to the letter of intent.
Though the site has been a parking lot for about 60 years, it did have some industrial uses prior.
“They’re doing some exploration, including some boring, just to make sure it’s a good, clean site,” Smith said.
Mallory Greenham, Hamilton assistant to the city manager, said the city received a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which contracted the Brownfield Restoration Group to conduct the environmental work.
“Drilling on the site to complete Phase II starts next week, and we should know by the end of the year what cleanup, if any, needs to be completed,” she said.
The city will be able to review the Phase II report, and Greenham said after that, staff will work on a development agreement, outlining construction timelines and milestones.
The developer, Shaun Pan, is planning to build a pair Hilton products ― a Home2Suites and Hampton Inn & Suites ― each with 80 rooms and a yet-to-be-identified restaurant. The remainder of the lot will be a parking area for the hotels and restaurant.
Smith said this is “another very exciting project for the city of Hamilton” as it brings the potential for upwards of 1,000 hotel rooms in the city closer to fruition.
Prior to Smith’s city manager tenure in 2010, there was just one hotel in Hamilton’s downtown, The Courtyard by Marriott. Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill opened its 233-room Warehouse Hotel last year, and The Well House Hotel at the former Anthony Wayne Apartments is under construction.
Multiple hotel projects are planned or being discussed, including at 20 High St. at the former Hamilton city building.
Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dan Bates said the dual hotel project takes a piece of property many assumed was unusable because it’s next to the railroad tracks. Dozens of trains travel that line a day.
“With modern technologies and modern building materials, they’re able to soundproof these buildings enough to make them viable, marketable hotel rooms,” he said.
But a challenge for the city now that this hotel, along with others planned and under construction, will address is the ability to keep visitors in the city, Bates said. He said people would prefer to stay closer to the event or venue they’re coming to Hamilton for, whether they’re traveling an hour or more for a RiversEdge concert or attending a weekend sports tournament at Spooky Nook.
“If they’re staying somewhere outside of Hamilton, the chances of them coming back out to Hamilton is slim,” he said. “This project, and others, could double the evening pedestrian traffic in the urban core.”