Hamilton nonprofit buying former US Bank building on High Street

After $250,000 purchase, city would take ideas from developers

Hamilton’s nonprofit Community Improvement Corporation, which works as an arm of the city to spur developments, will buy the historic Second National Bank building on High Street, which until recently was occupied by US Bank, for $255,000.

Possible uses for the building include a hotel, condominiums, office space or a combination of things, City Manager Joshua Smith told City Council this week.

The four-story building, located at 219 High St., with its beautiful exterior, was completed in 1931. Smith recommended City Council provide a $300,000 grant to the CIC to pay for the purchase. The city plans to request proposals from developers and offer it to one of them.

US Bank had an online auction to sell the building, and the city was the winning bidder, Smith said, with the money coming from the city’s general fund.

Because there was a broken boiler in the building, “they actually knocked the price down” and with realtor’s fees, “I think the actual cost to the city was $255,000,” Smith said.

When developers heard the city acquired the building, they contacted city officials expressing interest in various uses, Smith said.

“”We’ve heard office space, we’ve heard hotel, we’ve heard mixed-use, condominiums, a lot of different things,” Smith said.

“When we bid on it, frankly, I was hoping that we weren’t going to win it,” Smith said. “I was hoping that someone would come in and buy it from the private sector.”

“That did not happen, but we felt at the very least it was important to have some control, being a very prominent building on the High Street downtown corridor, especially at a cost of $255,000.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Smith said private companies would tell the city what they would do with a building like that, and how much of an investment they would make in it, such as “$3 million, $5 million, $10 million, $20 million, and what they would do with something of that nature.”

“It allows us to have a little control on the end use,” he said, later adding the city likely will ask for at least a $10 million investment.

Also, as 80 Acres Farms and ODW Logistics have continued to grow and expand within Hamilton’s city government tower at High Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, that building also could be used as offices for city employees.

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Smith said his top preference would be to put some city staff in the historic CSX train station the city plans to relocate to Maple Avenue early next year, “but at least I think it deserves some consideration and some analysis before I bring a recommendation back to council.”

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Economic Development Specialist Stacey Dietrich Dudas said the sale likely will close in two weeks. She said the auction sale price was $305,000, but the price then was reduced by $50,000 “because the boiler stopped working after the sale had ended.”

“We just took the reduction in the price,” she said.

The city and other development organizations in recent years have purchased numerous buildings in the downtown and Main Street areas, particularly on High and Main streets themselves, and then offered them at prices as low as $1 in exchange for agreed-upon investments by the developers.

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The reason Hamilton is advancing $300,000 instead of the $255,000, is “there could be unexpected holding costs, like the boiler,” Dietrich Dudas said.

Also, because the auction came up quickly, the city was unable to do testing for asbestos and lead paint. Also, there will be expenses of maintaining and heating the building before a developer is chosen, she said.

“We’ve had inquiries already from some entities, once the auction closed,” Dietrich Dudas said. The request-for-proposals likely will be released in early 2022.

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