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Hamilton ‘poster child’ for successful downtown rebirth, group says

An Ohio nonprofit focused on economic growth and development efforts is visiting Hamilton to study its revitalization efforts.

As part of a statewide initiative to help Ohio’s smaller “legacy cities” stabilize and thrive, staff from the Greater Ohio Policy Center met with Hamilton officials to understand the hurdles and opportunities the city faces.

“We will be sharing with other Ohio cities the lessons learned from Hamilton and other places that we are visiting this summer,” said GOPC Executive Director Alison Goebel as she walked downtown streets Monday.

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She added that GOPC wants to find out if there was a particular formula the city was using to help get drive new, successful economic development.

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“We think it is the poster child of success for small cities around the region,” Goebel said. “So we wanted to come and see what the secret sauce is here.”

“Legacy cities” are older, industrial urban areas that have experienced significant population and job loss, resulting in high residential vacancy and diminished service capacity and resources, according to GOPC.

City officials continue plans to increase redevelopment in the Main Street corridor near the Great Miami River, turning the area into a hoped-for dining and entertainment district.

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Then, 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.

That effort, officials have previously said, is important in attracting families and a Hamilton-area workforce.

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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 this year.

The group’s fact-finding missions are aimed at helping cities that are doing well grow even more and those that aren’t have a chance to glean some ideas to help the get better, according to Goebel.

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After walking the city for a bit Monday, Goebel said she came away feeling that Hamilton has some momentum going.

“Downtown is thriving and you have people on the street,” she said. “Buildings are coming back — it is looking wonderful.”

City Manager Joshua Smith was with GOPC officials during the tour and said the city will continue “to work on its vision towards creating a vibrant downtown” with steady economic growth.

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This article contains previous reporting by staff writer Mike Rutledge.

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