- Mike Rutledge Staff Writer
City officials in Hamilton plan to increase efforts to redevelop the Main Street corridor near the Great Miami River into a hoped-for dining and entertainment district.
After that, in late 2018, the city has drawn a target on the next redevelopment area: Central Avenue in the Second Ward. That leads into Pleasant Avenue, which runs through Lindenwald, the city’s most populous neighborhood.
Redevelopment in the Second Ward and Lindenwald is important because, “We’re investing in amenities to attract a Hamilton-area workforce,” City Manager Joshua Smith recently told City Council. “That is really important to us, especially as we’re trying to ramp up another 1,000 new jobs in Hamilton in 2017, to make sure we have a workforce here.”
The city has seen significant hiring from Barclaycard, Startek, ThyssenKrupp Bilstein and ODW Logistics — more than 800 jobs in 2016 alone. The same four are expected to create an additional 1,000 jobs in 2017.
The city is looking at improvements in the Central-Pleasant corridor between Pershing and Laurel avenues but may alter the focus area moving forward.
Both the Second Ward and Lindenwald have good housing stock that is affordable for young families, Smith said. He also announced plans during his Sept. 22 State of the City address to develop new bus routes through those areas to carry workers to the new jobs in Hamilton, and other jobs elsewhere.
Smith has said he plans to propose in the city’s 2017 budget that $3.45 million be given to the city’s non-profit Community Improvement Corporation, which will make a loan to the non-profit redevelopment CORE Fund (Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts) to reactivate buildings along Main Street between B and D streets.
“Once those buildings are reactivated, and once they get the leases on those buildings, they would treat it no differently than they did the former Elder-Beerman building (on High Street). They would go out and get traditional financing,” Smith said.
At that point, when the full $3.45 million comes back to the Community Improvement Corporation in 2018, it would become seed money for a catalytic fund for Central and Pleasant, similar to what has been done with the CORE Fund on High and Main streets.
Donna Cooper, who owns the Lindenwald Station restaurant with her husband, Mike, said she is looking forward to that money becoming available to uplift the neighborhood.
“I have heard they were working on these areas, and I’m very excited about it,” Cooper said. “I think that would be great for all of Hamilton, for them to create new business, and have places for their residents to go, and shop local.”
“Anytime a community works on developing an area, and having more good, solid businesses in the area, it’s always a good thing for the other businesses, as well as the residents,” Cooper added.
Bob Harris, president of the South East Civic Association, whose area takes in the Second Ward, said he’s pleased to hear the city is working on the Central Avenue corridor, and also is enthusiastic that the city is developing bus routes to help residents of the Second Ward and Lindenwald.
“I think it’s long overdue,” Harris said. “We should have been doing that some time ago. I definitely want to see the total plan, to see exactly what we’re taking about doing, how we’re going to do it, and the timeline for getting it done.”
Central Avenue “is a good choice” for a corridor to focus on, as would be 2nd Street, Harris said. It would “take a whole lot more” to redevelop 2nd Street than Central, he conceded.
“That’s some serious reconstruction in those areas, it’s going to take that kind of money,” Harris said about the redevelopment seed money. “You want to enhance, or clean up, those core areas.”
“This is not a grant,” Smith emphasized to the council. “This is simply a CIC loan to the CORE, they have to pay it back — the full principal amount — to the city within 24 months, and then by 2018, it would probably be a bit later in 2018, we would then begin the process of creating that catalytic fund (for) Central and Pleasant corridors.”
Many details of the plan are not yet developed. But the idea is to raise up Central Avenue in the Second Ward, which becomes Pleasant Avenue in Lindenwald.
“This is the corridor in my mind that once Walgreens to Walgreens is done east-to-west (on High and Main Streets), this north-south corridor to me is very important,” Smith told council.
“It’s important because, first and foremost, Lindenwald is our largest neighborhood, and I think it’s time we got them a shot in the arm,” Smith said. “There’s a lot of housing stock that I think is very affordable. It should be attractive to young families, but without this business corridor being something more than what it is today, it’s going to be harder to attract those young families.”
“A lot of positive are going to come out of this,” Smith predicted. “I believe that this corridor that’s outlined, just because there is so little there now, that the improvements will seem even greater — anything will be a win there.”
Smith said he has met with some business owners recently, “and they’re excited.”
Smith said he’s so invested in the redevelopment plan, he’s considering occupying a small office along the corridor and holding office hours once or twice a week in the area, because, “People need to believe that this is just not lip service.”
Smith noted many details are not yet determined, but will be during 2017: “It is my goal to work closely with Council, CORE, the CIC, 17 Strong, Protocol (Lindenwald’s neighborhood association), SECA and others to get input before we try to provide too many details. I will say that I am excited because I believe we have an opportunity to excite an area into positive action.”