Hamilton’s 2019: A year of big moves, Spooky Nook, Hollywood and more

The year 2019 had advancements and rising hopes for the future for Hamilton, which continues to improve after the Great Recession.

It was “a banner year” for income-tax receipts for the city, up 4.2 percent, showing employment is growing, city Finance Director Dave Jones announced in November.

Here are a few of the biggest stories in Hamilton this year.

Spooky Nook’s on the Way

Various storefronts, restaurants and bars have been opening or expanding in anticipation of the late 2021 opening of Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill, which will be the largest indoor sports complex in North America, and will have Greater Cincinnati’s second largest convention center.

RELATED: Hamilton’s newest restaurant hopes to offer many experiences in high-profile space

There have been skeptics about the project, but a threshold moment when more people started to believe came after local businesses and officials from nearby governments visited the original Spooky Nook facility near Lancaster, Pa., and said how impressed they were. Chef Tano Williams, who later Tano Bistro, told this media outlet he thought, “Oh my God, this is going to change Hamilton forever.” Meanwhile, companies wanting to build hotels have been scouting locations.

RELATED: ‘This is going to change Hamilton forever’: Trip to Pa. version Spooky Nook impresses

Another threshold moment that showed owner Sam Beiler was going full speed ahead with construction of the $144 million facility came in the final weeks of this year, when the first of 700 tractor-trailer loads of steel started arriving at the B Street site, in the former Champion Paper mill.

Focus on neighborhoods

But 2019 also was a year where concerns were raised about petty thefts, open drug abuse in neighborhoods with dirty needles left behind, and other issues that threaten quality of life in the city’s 17 neighborhoods.

Prompted by those concerns, and efforts to improve the neighborhoods, city government created a new Department of Neighborhoods, to help areas that City Manager Joshua Smith described as “teetering.”

Wrestling grows in the city

On the fun side, a new professional wrestling organization got started in the city on a weekly basis, joining another local group that has events less frequently.

Some traffic improvements

Hamilton officials announced some exciting traffic improvements that will be happening, while plan creation for the proposed North Hamilton Crossing was delayed a year because the city, still straining financially, is hoping to find grants from the state or federal government.

With heavy traffic expected because of the Spooky Nook complex, a “smart” traffic-light system will be installed that is the next best thing to the North Hamilton Crossing, officials have said.

Hollywood moment

Hamilton had yet another Hollywood moment early this year when the film Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo, was filmed in Hamilton, particularly the Highland Park neighborhood, making people there proud of their housing stock.

Centennial celebration

That wasn’t all for Highland Park, which in May celebrated its centennial with a community picnic.

RELATED: This Hamilton neighborhood that will soon be in a Hollywood movie is celebrating 100 years

Companies moving in

Some new companies moved in, including Darana Hybrid, a Native American-led company that installs conveyors and other small-package-handling systems for the likes of Amazon and FedEx. Another company new to Hamilton was a boat-building business called Water Taxi Marine LLC. Bringing huge possibilities are the indoor-agriculture companies 80 Acres and Infinite Acres, which have made Hamilton their world headquarters and U.S. headquarters, respectively.

Biking and walking options are increasing

Plans continued for multi-phase construction of the proposed Beltline bike path, which will wind from Spooky Nook through parts of the West Side. Meanwhile, segments of the bicycle path along the Great Miami River are eventually being filled in, so people will eventually be able to bike from Fairfield to Dayton and way beyond.

Hoping for development

Also trying to benefit from the Spooky Nook project are the city’s impoverished Second Ward neighborhood, the Fourth Ward, also known as Jefferson, and the Lindenwald neighborhood. Miami University planning students have created development plans for both Lindenwald and the Second Ward.

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