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Hamilton’s municipal building may be filled with 50 apartments

The developer who built The Marcum complex of high-end apartments, restaurants and shops plans to build 50 market-rate apartments in the city’s former municipal building at 20 High St.

Municipal Brew Works, which occupies the back of the building on the street level in a space that used to be a fire station, will continue as a tenant, but the city’s Hamilton Mill business accelerator and the museum that now occupy the building would have to move, said Jody Gunderson, Hamilton’s economic development director.

RELATED: Municipal Brew Works in 2016 became Hamilton’s first brewery in 80 years

“What we’re hoping to do is renovate that really, really unique structure into very cool, loft-style apartments, something that will complement but not compete with The Marcum,” he said. “It’ll follow The Marcum’s opening by at least a year, so we expect The Marcum to stabilize before that project is finished.”

The 102-apartment Marcum complex had its first residential tenants move in during October.

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“I couldn’t be more excited about it,” said Jim Cohen, head of Blue Ash-based CMC Properties. “I think it’s a phenomenal building, great location, great city, and I think the apartments are going to be incredible.”

He said the project is in the “planning stages,” and he got an architectural study underway, trying to figure out how many units.”

Gunderson said Cohen’s interest shows another bet on Hamilton’s potential.

“The mere fact that his one project hasn’t even been completed and he wants to start another one, bodes well for the confidence he has in the city of Hamilton,” Gunderson said.

The apartments will be striking, Cohen said.

“If you look at that building, it’s got windows all around it, varying roof decks, so it’s got great opportunities for indoor and outdoor space — it’s got some of the most beautiful common areas and stairwells, and hallways,” he said.

He plans to play up some of the building’s history in the design, including the fact it used to have a jail.

Interestingly, some students from Butler Tech School of the Arts in 2016 as a school project offered a concept to Hamilton City Council the idea of converting the building’s jail cells into tiny, inexpensive hotel rooms for students and other budget-conscious visitors to the city, with each “hotel pod” occupying a jail cell.

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Cohen, who was interested to learn of the students’ idea, said he’d like to incorporate components of the jail into the design, including fixtures or jail-cell bars.

Cohen is very bullish on Hamilton.

“I’m crazy about the city,” he said. “I’m from Boston originally, and architecture, obviously, holds an important place in my heart. And when I walk down High Street, I can’t help but feel like I’m home. It feels like old New England, the aesthetics of the churches, and the buildings, and all the other architecture, the old courthouse.

“I didn’t know Hamilton before I started The Marcum, but over the past few years, getting to know the community, being involved in the community, I’m just enamored with it. I think the place has incredible bones, and you take that foundation, and you incorporate with that great leadership … It makes it a fun place to do business.”

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Whether his company would buy the building is undetermined, Cohen said: “We’re still working through a ton of the details.”

He hopes the restaurants and shops will start opening in the spring, and in the summer.

“As far as my level of excitement for projects, I just think this has so much potential to be a really super-cool building in a town that really appreciates its history and appreciates its older buildings,” Cohen said.

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