State of Hamilton: Officials detail developments accelerating in the city

City Manager Joshua Smith gave his State of the City speech Thursday. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

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City Manager Joshua Smith gave his State of the City speech Thursday. MIKE RUTLEDGE/STAFF

Hotels, micro-breweries and other companies yet to be announced...

Thursday’s Hamilton State of the City Speech by City Manager Joshua Smith was used as a celebration of recent business openings and others that will open in future months.

But because there are several that are close to happening that Smith wasn’t able to announce yet, he and Mayor Pat Moeller decided they will have a mid-year State of the State speech in April to discuss those, Smith told a crowd of about 270.

Smith made several significant announcements, including several unnamed new hotels, new micro-breweries and an innovation center between Miami University faculty and students, working to help solve problems faced by Hamilton’s most innovative companies.

New hotels coming

Speculation in recent years that new hotels would be built to house 10,000 weekend visitors to the immense Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill indoor sports complex has been confirmed, Smith announced.

“The city has signed three letters of intent with hotels literally in the last 40 days. Three more,” Smith said. “We have Courtyard by Marriott that has 120 rooms. Spooky Nook’s hotel’s going to have 236 hotel rooms. What these LOIs represent is another 400-plus hotel rooms in Hamilton, Ohio.”

He added: “I guarantee you when we have the green light to announce the boutique, both of ‘em are names that you’re familiar with, and you’ll be incredibly excited about. So this is huge news for Hamilton, Ohio, right here.”

An innovation center

Also being developed is an innovation center that will connect Miami students, faculty and alumni with high-tech companies like 80 Acres Farms, which grows crops completely indoors; thyssenkrupp Bilstein, which makes highly adjustable shock absorbers for Tesla, BMW and Mercedes Benz; and Saica, a Spain-based manufacturer of recycled cardboard boxes; and several other cutting-edge local businesses.

“It’s going to be called the Ideation Green Lab,” and will occupy 10,000 square feet of the Spooky Nook complex, Smith said.

Micro-breweries

Smith credits the Municipal Brew Works micro-brewery for having jump-started development downtown. Others have opened since, or are planned, including Fretboard Brewing& Public House; and the proposed Amp House Brewing, which is to open next year on Maple Avenue.

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“We have a fourth brewery that it’s basically done, but we can’t announce it yet,” Smith said. “We’ve got four legitimate micro-breweries opening in Hamilton, Ohio, and actually, we’re working with a fifth one, right now.”

In a related matter, the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, where people can walk around with adult beverages from designated bars and restaurants, started with seven establishments and now has 22. “And we have 11 pending,” which will bring the number to 33, he said.

‘Joyous’ watching Hamilton teens succeed

“The Cunningham Sisters,” Smith said about the girls who are competing on the television program, The Voice. “I have family spread across the entire United States and they were texting me like crazy: “Can you believe these people from Hamilton, Ohio, are on The Voice and this is what they’re doing?” It was nothing short of incredible. They don’t care about Spooky Nook. They don’t know what Spooky Nook is. The Cunningham Sisters, the Little League World Series? Hell, yes. They know what’s going on.”

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Neighborhoods the most important thing

From here on out, Smith said, he and city council should be judged on how neighborhoods are improving.

“I don’t care about 10 Spooky Nooks, I don’t care about 10 new restaurants,” he said. “There’s one thing that we should be graded on, and it’s this right here: It’s our neighborhoods. It’s upon us — us, as a community — to help fix this problem.”

Blight remains too prevalent in the city, he said. “We’ve got to get into these neighborhoods. We’ve got to make more of a difference, and we’ve got to put more of an investment.”

A celebration of new companies

Smith, now with the city 11 years, was giving his 12th State of the City speech (he delivered his first shortly after arriving).

“I remember doing my second one, and I looked at my notes, and it was, ‘We’re gonna survive. This is terrible. We’re going to still be here. It was so melancholy. Tonight, I’m playing pinball, I may or may not have had a bourbon. And it’s like this is a totally different atmosphere from where we were 10 years ago.”

He and Moeller ticked off a variety of successes in development and other areas.

Among many announced projects that are underway and planning to open next year are Agave & Rye, The Farmer’s Collective, Nic & Norm’s Sidecar Bar on B Street; The Pour House bar at The Marcum, opening in ‘22, Wildfire opening its second location in 2022; as well as apartments and condominiums.

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