Historical society asking residents their thoughts on future of Manchester Inn, downtown landmark

Middletown city manager says renovating 100-year-old building would be twice as much as new build

While Middletown’s city manager said it “doesn’t make a lot of sense” to renovate a 100-year-old downtown building due to the “massive” costs, the Middletown Historical Society is seeking public opinion.

Sam Ashworth, former president of the historical society’s board, considers the Manchester Inn the second most important community building in the city, next to the Sorg Opera House. Before he wakes up and sees a wrecking crew tearing down the Manchester, he wants to hear from residents, then forward those results to city officials.

He called the survey “a first step,” and if the responses are favorable, the historical society will encourage city officials and city council to consider a marketing and feasibility study.

After the city determined not to move forward on the proposed $1.3 billion Hollywoodland project that was scheduled to include a hotel, Ashworth said “it’s worth looking into” the best purpose of the Manchester Inn and gauge public opinion.

People have told Ashworth the Manchester, which had 91 rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar and ballroom, “should be saved.”

City Manager Jim Palenick told the Journal-News that potential developers are interested in the site, but from an economic standpoint, there are “limited opportunities” due to the “massive” costs of renovating the building that has been vacant for years and a frequent target of vandalism.

He said repurposing the property would cost double the amount of tearing it down and constructing a new, more modern building.

Palenick called the Manchester “an incredible, valuable and important piece of real estate,” but the city needs to address the future of the hotel, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2014, in “a responsible way.”

The future of the Manchester has been a contentious topic for years that cost the city $161,824.60 it paid last year to the owner of the property and his attorneys that constituted reimbursement of expenses for his years of ownership of the buildings, according to city documents.

Last year at this time, a bench trial was scheduled to begin in Butler County Common Pleas Court to determine the ownership of two buildings in downtown Middletown. But that trial never happened and in May 2021, the city settled with William Grau, the owner and developer of the Manchester Hotel and Snider Ford/Sonshine Building, and his attorneys, according to Susan Cohen, city administrative services director.

Grau bought the Manchester Hotel and Snider Building from the city for $1 each in 2014 with the intent of renovating the properties into a hotel and brewery/distillery and restaurant. The development agreement called for the project to be completed within two years, by late 2016.

ExploreCity regains ownership of two downtown properties after council approves paying former owner $161K

The project cost was estimated at nearly $40.3 million, according to Ohio Development Services Agency information. Plans for both buildings include restoration to serve as a hotel again, and the Snider Ford Building would become a neighboring microbrewery and taproom.

But Grau never secured the necessary funds and the properties continued to deteriorate, according to Palenick. He said the payment ended the litigation and attorney fees and gave the city full titles to the properties.


HOW TO TAKE MIDDLETOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY SURVEY ON MANCHESTER INN

Go to https://tinyurl.com/3w8bmr9h or the Middletown Historical Society Facebook page

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