Some Hamilton offices possibly in historic CSX station? Spooky Nook?

Economic development, finance already out of 7-story city government tower.

Hamilton City Hall is willing to think outside Hamilton City Hall when it comes to where its employees will have offices in the future. Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill, perhaps? The historic train station the city is paying to move several blocks north along Martin Luther King Boulevard?

Those and other options are possible. In fact, some city offices — economic development and finance —recently moved out of the seven-story city government tower at 345 High St., as companies within the tower continue to expand.

Asked this week about a rumor that city government might move some city offices out of its government tower at 345 High St. to the under-construction Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill indoor sports complex and convention center, City Manager Joshua Smith responded: “That would be sweet! I am not aware of any such discussions. I was thinking about the train depot as possible space, as 80 Acres and ODW Logistics continue to expand.”

The city had hoped to move the train station to its new location this year, but that won’t happen until early 2022, Director of Engineering Rich Engle said this week: “We’re still in the process of getting the foundation designed, and we haven’t even bid that project yet.”

There is at least a seed of truth to the rumor about economic development and Spooky Nook: Under an agreement Smith announced this month during his state of the city speech, Miami University and several high-tech companies will occupy 10,000 square feet of space at Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill’s convention hall area. They will work together with Miami classes to help the companies solve problems and work more efficiently, and the city’s economic development department will be involved with that program.

In the meantime, the city’s economic development and finance departments already have moved out of city hall, partly because of ongoing displacement by expanding companies such as 80 Acres Farms, Infinite Acres, and ODW Logistics, businesses that were lured to the city partly by attractive rents in the city building and other incentives.

Those two city departments moved a few weeks ago into the third floor of the Community First Solutions building at 230 Ludlow St.

ODW Logistics now occupies the tower’s sixth floor and now is building out the fifth floor, while 80 Acres and Infinite Acres are expanding to the tower’s fourth floor. The city also is creating a customer-service desk in the lobby area of the tower as well.

The Journal-News in 2019 quoted Smith as saying he believed the city government tower, which was dedicated Aug. 16, 2000, was too nice a building to house government offices.

City Council voted 5-2 in June to move both buildings of the historic train station along the CSX tracks at Martin Luther King Boulevard. The buildings will be placed on new foundations at 409 Maple Ave.

Officials at that time estimated it would cost $1.8 million to move only the single-story building, which hosted a visit by Abraham Lincoln before he was president, and also bring it to a state where a tenant would only have to decorate the inside and add equipment and furnishings to move in.

No estimate has been offered for the costs of bringing the two-story building to that same condition.

A move of city offices to Maple Avenue would spur development along Maple in the Jefferson neighborhood, south of High Street between the downtown and Ohio 4.

The city has sparked some development in that area with the proposed Amp House microbrewry in a former city electric substation at 514 Maple Ave. Owners hope to open it in early 2022.

Smith has proposed spending $13.5 million of federal pandemic-assistance money to build a new police headquarters, and moving the municipal court, most likely to property on Hanover Street, near the Butler County Sheriff’s office. The $13.5 million would represent 35% to 45% of the costs of construction, he said.

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