Hamilton offering former longtime Ritzi Body Shop for development on Main Street

City officials are seeking proposals for businesses at the former Ritzi Body Shop location, such as a restaurant, bar, store or other options.

The 0.62-acre property, at the southeast corner of Main and E streets, includes two buildings, one that looks like an older-style gasoline and service station, and a larger building in back.

“It’s a very prominent corner,” said Mallory Greenham, small-business development specialist for Hamilton. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a piece of property like this on Main Street. They don’t come around every day.”

It also has “a dedicated parking lot, which is very rare” for that business corridor, she said.

“High preference will be given to food service operations,” according to Hamilton’s announcement seeking proposals for the property the city purchased this summer for $365,000 and housed the now-empty body shop for 83 years, until this summer.

“We really see a restaurant, but it could be a bourbon bar that has snacks,” Greenham said. “We see it as becoming a real anchor in the district — as a place to grab a drink or something to eat.”

“What comes to mind to us and we use as an example is the Garage Bar in Louisville, Ky.,” she said. “We’ve just seen some really cool bars and restaurants pop up in old, historic service stations, and that’s really what we’re looking for.”

Although officials prefer a food-service operation, “we are open to concepts that include retail,” she said.

“They can propose any price” for the sale, Greenham said. “And obviously, our decision will be based on their level of investment.”

Jessica Schwartz, owner of nearby Rustic Home at 330 Main St., was pleased to hear the news.

“It’ll be a great thing to have any of those (types of development) down here,” Schwartz said. “We definitely need more stuff, especially on our 300 block. There’s not much.”

“If they kept the front part, it could definitely be something cool and vintage, like a bar or something in there. That would be cool.”

Her 3-year-old business will be moving to 400-402 Main St. because Hamilton bought the building she rents to make way for a 50-plus unit apartment complex.

Developers will be asked how much they propose to pay for the property and will submit concepts for use of the land and buildings. The deadline is noon on Feb. 26.

Developers will be expected to have building permits issued for the project within one year of signing the development agreement with the city. They will be given 24 months to obtain a certificate of occupancy.

Greenham can be reached at at 513-785-7096 or at mallory.greenham@hamilton-oh.gov. The city already performed a Phase I environmental study on the property, “and we are confident that we can move forward with a food-service or retail option on that site,” she said.

The 300 block of Main has been in the news a few times in the past year. Among those times, it was announced that Jim Cohen, whose Blue Ash-based CMC Properties created The Marcum development downtown, is planning a 50-plus apartment complex there. After advocates signed petitions urging the city not to raze an adjacent historic double residence there, the city bought other properties to help the apartment project.

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