Downtown Hamilton hotel project gets $6 million tax credit

Upscale brand hotel will preserve historic art deco structure by Fredrick Mueller.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Mueller Hotel LLC has been awarded $6 million for the redevelopment of the old Hamilton city offices into a boutique hotel that community leaders say will play an important piece in the city’s continued revitalization.

The building at 20 High St. in downtown Hamilton will be transformed into a Marriott Tribute hotel, the chain’s upscale brand, as the developer works to preserve the historic art deco of the limestone structure designed by famed local architect Fredrick Mueller.

On Wednesday, the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program formally awarded the project $6 million in tax credits for the $61.6-plus million project.

“From the very beginning, we knew a lot of support would be required from many parties to make this project successful,” said Amro Kamel of Mueller Hotel LLC. “From the very beginning, the city of Hamilton has provided their unrelenting support. And now that the project has state support, it further emphasizes the importance and desire to revitalize this great building so that it isn’t forgotten. With this award, the building can be brought back to life and continue expanding its history long into the future.”

The former city building will be remade into a boutique hotel, but it involves a major rehabilitation, which includes demolishing the non-historic 1969 addition at the east end of the building. The project calls for a new addition to be constructed that would see the majority of the 150- to 160-room hotel.

The building was built in 1935 and the city’s operations ran out of the building until the mid-2000s when they relocated to One Renaissance Center at 345 High St.

“The configuration of the historic (former city) building, with its extensive square footage of historically significant circulation space and its unique layout, makes adaptive reuse challenging,” according to the application.

The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program awarded more than $68.5 million in tax credits to 42 buildings in 12 community projects around the state, including in Hamilton. The program provides a financial incentive for private redevelopment of historic buildings that are either vacant or generate little economic activity.

“As our downtowns and neighborhoods grow and evolve, it’s important that we preserve Ohio’s historic spaces in a way that drives further investment into our communities,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “By supporting these renovations, we’re reviving historic buildings that stood prominently in the past so that they can contribute to Ohio’s strong economy and growth in the future.”

The projects are expected to leverage approximately $691 million in private investments, and Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, said historic buildings are authentic spaces that make our communities unique” as they “preserve the character of our downtowns and neighborhoods and tell the story of Ohio.”

Other amenities at the new Hamilton downtown hotel project include a covered valet at the riverfront entrance, rooftop outdoor and enclosed event spaces, and corporate-style suites. Local brewery Municipal Brew Works, which is on the backside of 20 High St., will remain and be an important piece of the development, according to Kamel.

Though the project is rehabilitating one of the city’s most historically and architecturally significant buildings, it will provide much-needed hotel rooms sparked by Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, which has attracted thousands of guests and travelers.

Spooky Nook opened its hotel, the Warehouse Hotel, in 2022, and the Anthony Wayne Apartments is now being redeveloped for Hilton’s boutique hotel brand, the Tapestry Collection, called the Well House Hotel.

Barring any construction of other projects ― a dual Hilton hotel project planned for the corner of MLK Boulevard and High Street and at least one hotel at the Crawford Hoying project at the corner of North Third and Black streets ― the Mueller Hotell LLC project would be the next to open. The original Hamilton hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott, was purchased earlier this year by Crawford Hoying.

Kamel said the tax credit award “is coming at the perfect time so that we can keep moving the project along.”

“Our design on the hotel is nearly complete and the next major milestone is for us to secure construction financing, then begin construction,” he said. “We are scheduled to start construction by Q1 2025.”

Mueller Hotel LLC is the combined efforts of Spectrum Investment Group and Acumen Development. They have worked on more than 125 hotel projects together. They announced the partnership with the Marriott Tribute brand this past spring, but, at this point, it doesn’t have a name.

Hamilton Executive Director of Development Aaron Hufford said the historic tax credit award is exciting news.

“This crucial funding will help preserve the historic integrity of the building, our former Hamilton City Hall, while transforming it into a vibrant, upscale hotel ― a much-needed amenity in our community,” he said. “We look forward to seeing this project come to life and contributing to the continued growth and revitalization of Hamilton.”

Adaptive reuse projects like the Mueller Hotel project require multiple layers of support to succeed, said Butler County Finance Authority Executive Director Joshua Smith, adding that tax credits, such as the ones this developer secured, “is pivotal in advancing these projects.”

“The project’s scope significantly enhances the renaissance of downtown Hamilton, offering substantial benefits to small business retailers and restaurants,” he said. “This development continues the extraordinary transformation of a post-industrial city into a vibrant community where people have unique, historical options to live, work and play.”

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Dan Bates said this project’s “fortitude and vision” that moved it forward “is equal in scale to the Spooky Nook project.”

“What they have planned for this location far exceeds anything currently offered, not just in Hamilton, but in the region,” he said. “Locals and tourists will want to take advantage of the amenities and urban river view experience this finished project will offer. This is beyond a win for Hamilton. This is a turning point. With 20 High St. and the Well House flanking High Street, the expectation of the hospitality experience in Hamilton will be raised to a level beyond what anyone thought possible.”

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