Developer proposing $1.3 billion ‘Hollywoodland’ in Middletown working on 3 other projects: What they are

Credit: Journal News

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Proposed $1.3 billion "Hollywoodland" project in Middletown

Credit: Journal News

City council voting has stalled regarding proposed $1.3 billion Hollywoodland

For two City Council meetings, Middletown City Manager Jim Palenick sat and listened as the majority of citizen comments were against a proposed $1.3 billion entertainment and destination complex called Hollywoodland.

Residents voiced their concerns about the city spending $7.5 million of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on the project, the proposed 50-acre location near the Great Miami River and historic downtown, how the project that is expected to attract 3.5 million visitors annually would create traffic congestion, the need for infrastructure improvements and the track record of the developers.

A decision on the proposal, the largest in Middletown’s history, was set to be decided at the Oct. 21 special council meeting, but the developers asked council to table the decision until Dec. 7 to give the developers more time to address residents’ questions.

Councilwomen Monica Nenni and Ami Vitori, both owners of downtown businesses, said they’re waiting for a ruling from the Ohio Ethics Commission on whether they should vote on the legislation.

Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan said he planned to recuse himself from voting because his family owns property on South Main Street near where the project is proposed.

So with three of the five council members unable vote, none was taken.

ExploreMiddletown Council doesn’t have votes to decide future of $1.3B Hollywoodland

At the end of the meeting, Mayor Nicole Condrey, who is against the plan, said: “It’s really frustrating. We will punt it.”

It’s unclear when a vote will be taken. Several people who packed the Council Chambers said the issue should be voted on after two members of council are elected on Tuesday.

Palenick, hired as city manager in 2020 after serving as city administrator in Racine, Wis., understands residents’ concerns about Hollywoodland. He said Middletown citizens are reluctant to embrace the project for two reasons: the proposed cost and magnitude of the development and its uniqueness.

“It’s so big in size and scope and investment they don’t know how to understand it,” Palenick said after this week’s economic development breakfast at Middletown Regional Airport. “No. 2, you can’t point to another one. So it’s hard to grasp. They want to look at one and say, ‘Where is it and what does it look like?’ When you’re a pioneering effort it’s very hard to sort of wrap your arms around that. Middletown has a hard time imagining itself doing something first. That’s a big piece of it I think.”

Residents said it’s difficult to put much trust in Main Street Community Capital LLC. The company was named OZ (Opportunity Zone) Hotels & Resorts when the city paid $250,000 in March on a redevelopment study.

Then OZ changed its named to Main Street Community Capital since not all its projects are located in Opportunity Zones, said David Elias-Rachie, one of the principles.

The Hollywoodland concept is the first for Main Street, which plans to build several similar projects, he said.

On the company’s web site, it lists three projects in various stages of completion: Mason City Hyatt Place in Mason City, Iowa; the Marriott Racine Harbour and Convention Center in Racine, Wis.; and Novelty Iron Works in Dubuque, Iowa.

When talking about the developers’ track record, Palenick likes to refer to Crosby, Stills and Nash. He said the three musicians came together to produce a sound that was “bigger, greater and different.”

He thinks the same can be said about the group of developers, investors and historic experts working on Hollywoodland. He said the group recognized where the entertainment business was heading and that “created the need and desire to create this new group.”

Palenick understands he’s been the target on some of the criticism from residents. He said throughout his 30-year career as city administrator, with stops in five states, he always has taken direction council.

“I don’t want to focus too much on me,” he said. “At the end of the day all I do is provide advice. All I do is recommend. I never have a vote. Not one. People like to talk about things in my past, in my future, anytime in between. Anything I’ve ever done has been at the direction I got from city councils who often times voted unanimously. So the idea that Jim Palenick did succeed or didn’t succeed, really had nothing to do with Jim Palenick. It had to do with a city council that was giving direction where we wanted to go. Sometimes the direction stayed the same and sometimes the direction changed. If you’re going to have success direction has to be solid, and it has to be sustained over time. What you can’t do is internally attack yourself.”

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Forest Hills Country Club would be part of the land needed if Main Street Community Capital were to design and build “Hollywoodland” and residential apartments as presented on more than 50 acres near the Great Miami River and historic downtown Middletown. City council members appear to be divided on the feasibility of the $1.3 billion proposed entertainment, event, dining and retail project. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Forest Hills Country Club would be part of the land needed if Main Street Community Capital were to design and build “Hollywoodland” and residential apartments as presented on more than 50 acres near the Great Miami River and historic downtown Middletown. City council members appear to be divided on the feasibility of the $1.3 billion proposed entertainment, event, dining and retail project. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

caption arrowCaption
Forest Hills Country Club would be part of the land needed if Main Street Community Capital were to design and build “Hollywoodland” and residential apartments as presented on more than 50 acres near the Great Miami River and historic downtown Middletown. City council members appear to be divided on the feasibility of the $1.3 billion proposed entertainment, event, dining and retail project. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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Artist renderings of the proposed "Hollywoodland" development in downtown Middletown, which city officials say would bring $1.3 billion in investment and thousands of jobs to the city. CONTRIBUTED

Artist renderings of the proposed "Hollywoodland" development in downtown Middletown, which city officials say would bring $1.3 billion in investment and thousands of jobs to the city. CONTRIBUTED

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Artist renderings of the proposed "Hollywoodland" development in downtown Middletown, which city officials say would bring $1.3 billion in investment and thousands of jobs to the city. CONTRIBUTED


OTHER MAIN STREET PROJECTS

Here is a look at the three projects listed on the Main Street Capital web site:

Mason City, Iowa

Mason City Hyatt Place and Conference Center includes lobby bar, fitness center, indoor pool and other amenities. Substantial state and community incentives to build Conference Center with link to Music Man Square/Meredith Wilson Museum. Adjacent to the new minor league hockey arena. Planned opening summer 2023.

Racine, Wis.

Marriot Racine Harbour Hotel and Convention Center on Lake Michigan Harbor. This is the first phase of major mixed-use development. The second phase will include approximately 650 market-rate apartments along the Root River, adjacent to downtown Racine. Hotel/convention center construction is scheduled to commence spring of 2022. Multi-family development to follow later 2022.

Dubuque, Iowa

Mixed-use redevelopment within Dubuque’s Historic Millwork District including restaurants, entertainment, retail shops, market-rate residential loft condominiums and event venues. A 103-room boutique hotel is under development within in the complex.

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