- Mike Rutledge Staff Writer
If 2017 was a year of planning for Hamilton’s city government, City Manager Joshua Smith believes 2018 will be a period of making projects happen.
The city is completing several plans to guide its future, including, among others, a citywide master vision called Plan Hamilton, an assessment of what Ohio 4 could look like and a guide for how the riverfront should be developed in coming years.
“Even though we did have a fair amount of construction activity, including the start of The Marcum (apartment and restaurant complex downtown) in 2017,” Smith said, “I really think getting the planning done in 2018 and then pivoting immediately over to more construction is really our goal.”
Although Hamilton has seen numerous development wins during the past year, “I feel more disappointed in 2017 than any year I’ve been here,” said Smith, who became city manager in September of 2010. “I feel like we had the potential to do more that we didn’t do, and I will tell you that the last two weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time planning for 2018, because I am very resolute that 2018 is going to be a banner year for Hamilton. I have two huge calendars on my wall with target dates, everything.”
When he thinks of such projects, he envisions major accomplishments on several, including:
Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill and other developments, particularly along the western shore of the Great Miami River.
By the fall of 2018, he expects work to be underway on the Spooky Nook mega-indoor sports complex, partly because the project must start by then to maximize use of historic-building tax credits, which were limited by recent law changes that were included in December’s federal tax-law changes.
“I think when people see multiple cranes and an army of construction workers over there, hopefully no later than the fall of 2018, that will certainly energize that (Main Street) area even more than it currently is,” Smith said.
Progress on several empty spaces, including the former Beckett Paper mill, the former Ohio Casualty office complex and empty spaces and buildings along Main Street and High Street.
While storefronts have begun filling along Main Street in recent years, “In my mind, that’s simply a start,” Smith said. “We certainly have a long way to go, and I believe between now and this time in 2018, there should be a lot more activity taking place, in terms of construction.”
While owners of the Beckett property wanted to tear one building down, Smith said the city is working with them to find partners to reuse the complex.
“We have a ton of prospects in, always looking for what they call interesting, cool architectural office space, and we believe that we have that in spades in Hamilton,” Smith said. “We just have to find the appropriate development company to come in and get them development-ready.”
The new Joint Economic Development District is a collaboration between Hamilton and Fairfield Twp.
The two governments are working with Sharonville’s McGill Smith Punshon to create a master plan for the 184.2-acre area southwest of the intersection of Ohio 129 and the Ohio 4 Bypass. Plans for the area call for office and medical facilities, including supporting businesses.
The governments also have been working with the Butler County Engineer’s Office on road improvements for the area that should be happening within the next 24 months.
Also, after more than 100 years of discussions, the South Hamilton Crossing project is under construction. It will improve cross-town traffic between Ohio 4 and the Miami University Hamilton campus, as well as the city’s West Side. That project is expected to be finished in 2018.