Middletown council expected to table vote on $1.3 billion Hollywoodland project: What residents are saying

Credit: Journal News

Proposed $1.3 billion "Hollywoodland" project in Middletown

Credit: Journal News

Proposed developers ask for 7-week delay to meet with residents, answer concerns.

The future of Middletown’s most expensive project is expected to be delayed tonight when City Council votes on whether to table the vote until Dec. 7 on a proposed $1.3 billion entertainment and destination complex called Hollywoodland.

The proposed developers, Main Street Community Capital LLC., have asked council to delay the vote for seven weeks so they can meet with Middletown residents to answer some of their concerns.

City Manager Jim Palenick said the city would utilize $7.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds and would combine that with financial support from the state. City Council approved spending $250,000 in March on a redevelopment study to determine if a large-scale, hospitality and destination entertainment-focused project could be “economically viable and sustainable,” the city said.

The city expects to spend $700,000 to $800,000 more in legal, engineering, lobbying, and professional consulting services and activities in support of the public improvements, according to the staff report.

Mayor Nicole Condrey, who is against the project, said during Tuesday’s City Council meeting she is ready to vote on the legislation tonight because she doesn’t believe developers can provide “significant additional” information and she doesn’t want more city resources used on the proposal.

ExploreDiscussion continuing on whether $1.3 billion Hollywoodland project will break ground, benefit Middletown

At the last two council meetings, about 30 Middletown residents, some whom live in the Historic District near where the project is proposed to be built, have said they’re against the plan that calls for development on about 50 acres along the Great River Miami and downtown.

One of those who spoke Tuesday was Brian Duba, who said he has been an attorney for 16 years. He questioned why the contract between the city and Main Street, a company formed this year, called for a $2 million payment two weeks after the contract is signed, followed by $2 million after eight weeks, $2 million more after 24 weeks and the last $1.5 million before construction begins.

“You don’t pay in advance,” he told council Tuesday night.

Duba said he read the contract and encouraged council members to understand the complex language that he called “a tangled web.”

Renae Fossum, who lives on South Main Street, called the project “not right for Middletown” and she questioned the track record of the developers.

The Hollywoodland concept is the first for Main Street, which plans to build several similar projects, said David Elias-Rachie, one of the principles. The company’s portfolio includes the development of the Mason City Hyatt Place in Mason City, Iowa; the Marriott Racine Harbour and Convention Center in Racine, Wisconsin; and Novelty Iron Works in the company’s hometown of Dubuque, Iowa.

Eric Fossum told council members their legacy will be determined by how they vote on Hollywoodland since the city is “at a crossroads.” He urged them to vote against the project.

“How will you be remembered?” he asked the five council members.

ExploreMiddletown council divided on proposed $1.3 billion ‘Hollywoodland’

Cathie Mulligan, whose son Joe Mulligan is the city’s vice mayor, said the project is expected to cost $1.3 billion, or $200 million less than Cleveland-Cliffs paid to purchase AK Steel in 2020.

She said the project is “too big” and she’s concerned how the estimated 3.5 million annual visitors to the city would navigate the roads.

Matt Mulligan, a high school social studies teacher, talked to his students about the project and said they “saw right through it” and called it “pure propaganda.”

Some members of council, because they own downtown businesses or their relatives live near the development, have requested ethics opinions from legal counsel and the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding their ability to vote on the legislation.

Condrey, for the first time publicly, questioned why her fellow council members waited until now, after they had voted on the project previously, to ask for an ethics ruling. They should have asked for a ruling when the project was proposed in January, she said.

She contacted the ethics commission and was told it will not provide an opinion because council members had voted on the legislation, Condrey said.

During the new business portion of the meeting, Mulligan said he took exception with Condrey’s comments. He felt the mayor “called into question” his ethics and said on several occasions she has abstained from voting on certain legislation items, though she was allowed to vote.

He wanted the “same courtesy,” he told the mayor.

Today’s meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. and will include public safety budget presentation and ARPA fund budget presentation, according to the agenda.

The Hollywoodland development is expected to include:

  • A destination Marriott hotel and attached, publicly owned convention center with roof-top bar, themed restaurant and assorted amenities.
  • A second, family-oriented hotel and water park.
  • A third, historic, boutique hotel located within the adaptively-redeveloped First National Bank building.
  • A major, indoor entertainment and concert venue for large, nationally and internationally acclaimed artists and touring Broadway productions.
  • An indoor amusement park containing multiple, themed entertainment-based rides, virtual reality experiences, immersive entertainment opportunities and integrated retail, food and beverage.
  • Structured and integrated underground deck-based publicly-owned parking with more than 3,000 spaces.
  • On-site, mid-rise, luxury, market-rate apartment units and/or condominiums.
  • Permanent, pre- and post-production motion picture studio sound stages and support offices and infrastructure.
  • Multiple restaurants, bars, brewpubs, and cafes, and a likely comedy club.
  • Integrated fashion, electronic, lifestyle, convenience, and recreational retail.

SOURCE City of Middletown.

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