Hamilton building to be redeveloped into boutique hotel

A downtown Hamilton apartment building has plans to be redeveloped back into its intended purpose: a hotel.

Vision Realty Group of Cincinnati is partnering with Lighthouse Hospitality Group, Inc., of St. Petersburg, FL, on a $16 million redevelopment of the Anthony Wayne Apartments and has reached a purchase agreement with the building’s owner. The plan is to turn the apartment building into a 54-room boutique hotel, said Vision Realty Group President Matt Olliges.

“The city of Hamilton exudes a tremendous vibrancy that we wanted to be a part of,” said the 20-year building and development industry veteran. “The hotel’s location will offer exceptional walkability to businesses, restaurants, and gathering places throughout downtown Hamilton and will be near the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill and other attractions throughout the city and the region. We want to thank the city of Hamilton for its support of this exciting project.”

Construction is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2023 and be completed in about a year. There are around 40 residents who still live in the apartment, and they have been notified, Olliges said.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Butler Metropolitan Housing Authority Executive Director Benjamin Jones said there are some apartment residents who use tenant-based vouchers, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers. He said there is a process and procedure in place for whenever a rental becomes unavailable. The voucher-holder would be issued new paperwork, and then they can search for a new place to live.

The developer provided tenants with nearly 2 dozen property options in and around the city, in addition to a six-month vacate notice.

Jones said the BMHA has a list of landlords that accept Section 8 vouchers, but it’s not all-inclusive.

“We also try to point them to other resources to help them find someplace to reside,” said Jones. “The housing market right now is just incredibly tight. We offer what we can, and we give extensions when someone goes to what we call relocation; we give them extra time to find stuff. Sometimes that helps, sometimes that doesn’t. The market is just so tight out there right now.”

Hamilton’s revitalization efforts had been happening since City Manager Joshua Smith started more than a decade ago. He said the city’s “uniqueness in southwest Ohio is our history, authenticity, and architecture.”

“The Anthony Wayne Hotel was a point of civic pride when it was built in 1927 to accommodate salesmen and executives who were visiting the many industries and businesses in our community,” he said. “We are excited to see a significant reinvestment in the Anthony Wayne building that will preserve this historic and architecturally significant structure for future generations.”

The seven-floor, 100-room hotel was named for the frontier general that relied on Fort Hamilton as a supply base. The Anthony Wayne Hotel closed in May 1964 and attracted one bid at an August 1964 sheriff’s sale. It was converted into 54 apartments. The building was eventually donated to the Ohio Preservation Alliance, and in 1995, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Hamilton Historic Civic Center Historic District.

In January 2000, it was converted into 50 apartments and had changed multiple times since, the last in July 2021 by Jeannie Hiatt, of California, according to the Butler County Auditor.

Olliges has seen Hamilton’s rebirth first-hand as his company worked on the redevelopment of 205 Main St., which saw Billy Yanks move in on the ground floor, and has all of the upstairs apartments rented.

“There are a lot of businesses, rebirth going on in Hamilton,” he said, adding that the Spooky Nook project will be “a game-changer” not only for the city but for the downtown business community. He said the sports and event complex will be that “in-your-face driver” that will attract thousands of people every weekend, but there are a lot of other draws, from the Fitton Center and Pyramid Hill, to the shops up and down High and Main streets.

Hamilton City Council will consider a development agreement regarding the project at its May 25 meeting. Besides the expected development agreement with the city, the developers will apply for tax credits through the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives program and the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. The project will create a minimum of 30 new jobs and more than 100 construction jobs during redevelopment.

“Over the years the Anthony Wayne’s condition has declined. What makes Hamilton unique is we have historic buildings, and we have unfortunately lost too many already due to the reinvestment costs being prohibitive,” said Smith. “To find a developer that is willing to take the significant risk of a project like this, illustrates the progress we have made as a community.”

The city has had several conversations with other hotel developers over the past few years, but Smith said, “None of those conversations have yet turned into formal development agreements, but we are getting close on another hotel project in downtown Hamilton.”

Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce President Dan Bates said this hotel development “is huge,” but still, “We need more hotels in downtown Hamilton.”

“From an economic development standpoint, that corner of the city is really underutilized,” he said of the development project. “I think this opens the opportunity to make that a hub. I think it’s all positive.”

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts will have a direct impact as a result of the proposed hotel, which is across the street from the Anthony Wayne. But for Fitton Center Executive Director Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, he sees it as a sign as more people moving into Hamilton and working in Hamilton.

“We’re seeing this incredible development in Hamilton week by week, month by month,” he said. “The biggest impact is that macro impact of the growth of Hamilton, the growth of the population, and the companies that are coming here. Honestly, that’s our biggest focus, is the community.”

With more people moving and working in Hamilton, it is an opportunity to develop the Fitton Center’s membership and donor base, and “not just someone who’s staying during the week at the hotel.”

The hotel will have the typical amenities, like an exercise room, breakfast area, and small conference center, and there will be a yet-to-be-identified high-end restaurant with outdoor dining where the city’s Welcome Center currently resides. But the hotel’s largest amenity will be the community, Olliges said.

“The community is the amenity. That’s the beauty of Hamilton and having the walkability to things. You can walk to all the established shops,” Olliges said. “We will have a few amenities, but the community is the real amenity.”

In addition to the restaurant being identified at a later date, the hotel brand will also be announced at a later date.

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