Maple Avenue Corridor revitalization will be ‘noticeable difference’ on Hamilton’s east side

Improving Maple Avenue has been on Hamilton’s bucket list for quite some time, and now the big redevelopment push of the corridor in the northern area of the Jefferson neighborhood is starting to happen.

The public saw the first change to the Maple Avenue Corridor, which runs from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Ohio 4, when the two former CSX train depot buildings were relocated 1,000-plus feet north, forever changing the corridor’s landscape. In a couple of months, the next visual change in the corridor’s redevelopment will begin when Meyer Brothers and Sons start the reconstruction of the former freight house depot.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

In another life, Maple Avenue was home to industrial and train commerce, but today it’s an antiquated corridor highlighted by the 18,000-square-foot vacant former Maple Avenue depot Meyer Brothers will take ownership of soon. That development, along with the redevelopment of the former electric substation at 514 Maple Ave., will be the first significant investment in businesses on the street in a very long time.

Aaron Hufford, Hamilton’s Chief of Staff for the city manager, said these projects are what the city expects will “jumpstart” the Maple Avenue Corridor resurgence.

“The Meyer Brothers project, Amp House, and the historic train depot represent three large vacant properties that are finding new life on Maple Avenue,” he said. When these (and others) are fully up and running, you will see a noticeable difference in the corridor as it starts to become a destination.”

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The city of Hamilton is set to close this week on the land swap deal with Cohen Recycling that includes the property at 1000 Maple Ave. that will eventually be owned by Meyer Brothers. City Council on Wednesday approved the eventual sale of the property to the Hamilton-based home remodeling and custom cabinetry business for $1 in exchange for at least $1 million in investment and employing at least 25.

Rick Meyer, Meyer Brothers’ architect, business manager and son of Dick Meyer, one of the founders, said he expects the transfer of the property to take about a month once the city takes ownership, and it would be another month after that before redevelopment would begin.

The Maple Avenue Corridor is considered an important connector to the city’s downtown. The street once served as an industrial and train commerce corridor. As it is today, there are a lot of issues with Maple Avenue. There are underutilized properties, sidewalks and asphalt that need over-due upgrades, a lack of pedestrian and cyclist accessibility and connectivity, and no identity.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Maple Avenue’s appeal

Despite its faults, the city — and more importantly, investors — see possibilities.

“We’ve driven past this (building) for years and years and years, and there’s never been anything in it or anything done with it, and just the architecture of the building itself is really cool, and really attractive,” said Jeremy Culver, Meyer Brothers and Sons’ general manager. “That’s what really initially inspired (the project).”

The beauty underneath the overgrowth and grime of the historic brick building was just one part of the investment equation. Hamilton’s revitalization efforts for the past dozen or so years was another factor in the Meyer Brothers and Sons’ investment. Maple Avenue is just one block off the revamped and upgraded High Street.

“Logistically, this kind of makes sense because of what’s happening in Hamilton,” Meyer said of the move from 2275 Millville Ave. to 1000 Maple Ave.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

And this redevelopment project will help set the tone for the redevelopment of the Maple Avenue Corridor.

“Our vision is to bring to life the existing historic structure and to relate to the neighborhood in a friendly manner and try to encourage that whole community development of that area,” Meyer said.

The unappealing green-paneled fencing will be replaced with a brick and aluminum decorative fence that will provide both safety and transparency. Meyer said they want to have a “good visual connection” with the community and they “don’t want to hide behind some wall. We want to be open and transparent.”

The reconstruction, which will take about 18 months, will highlight the historic architecture of the former freight house train depot.

In about a year, construction will begin on the Amp House Brewing project, which had experienced construction and financing delays, but co-owner Ryan Harper said he and his business partner Greg Snow are embracing their part in the revival of Maple Avenue.

“We want to reclaim some of that area, clean it up, make it look nice,” said Harper, adding he hopes it will start a chain reaction to help the corridor in the northern part of the Jefferson neighborhood. He said it’s rife with opportunities for prosperity. “They have a DORA zone right there, the (CSX) train station was recently moved, but we really just fell in love with that building, and it’s just the perfect brewery building.”

Harper and Snow will transform the former electric substation into a brewery, and the project is expected to take eight to nine months to complete. Amp House Brewing will honor some of the country’s electric pioneers ― Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse ― as they plan to serve wood-fired pizza and beer.

Hufford said though there are challenges in the area, there are just as many possibilities as for the road that connects two major roadways in Hamilton.

“We envision a true mixed-use urban corridor with retail, restaurants, infill residential units, and businesses,” he said. “While we do not have any new announcements at this time, the investments slated for the coming year combined with the recent DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) and Community Entertainment District (CED) expansion over the area will further the opportunities in the Maple Avenue Corridor.”

More online

Watch drone video of this section of Maple Avenue in Hamilton.

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