Upscale steak restaurant, expanded senior center may be in Middletown’s future

Director of Central Connections asks city for $2 million to help finance $7M-10M project.

Middletown could become home to a remodeled community center that would cost $7 million to $10 million and an upscale steak house that has a location in Cincinnati.

Representatives from Central Connections and Prime Cincinnati made presentations during last week’s City Council meeting.

Diane Rodgers, executive director of Central Connections, asked council members to consider allotting $2 million of the city’s $19 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to expand its adult community center on Central Avenue.

Then Nelson Castillo from Prime Cincinnati said he hopes to expand and open a steak restaurant in Murphy’s Landing in downtown. Several restaurants have opened and closed in that location.

City Manager Paul Lolli said city staff is preparing a financial package for the restaurant that will be presented at the next council meeting on Oct. 4.

The Middletown restaurant will be called Primo Middletown and offer steaks, seafood and a wide wine selection. Castillo said the restaurant will be open for brunch and dinner.

Castillo showed a short video of inside Prime Cincinnati that resembled something in Las Vegas with live entertainment.

Council member Rodney Muterspaw said Middletown has diverse restaurant options, but needs a steak house.

Rodgers, who has been executive director for less than one year, said an expanded community center will create jobs, bring visitors to the city and generate revenue.

During council comments, Mayor Nicole Condrey said the city is addressing every possible use of ARPA funds and wants the money to “come back to the city ten fold.”

Rodgers said the expansion will add 18,000 square feet to the 22,000 square feet facility. The expansion, she said, serves two purposes: Allows for more room for seniors, those 50 and older, to exercise, social interact and participate in health education classes and provides space for the center to host conferences and meetings.

The new building, located a short walk from Central Connections, will have two levels and includes a heated swimming pool, half-court basketball gym, card and game rooms, billiard room, conference rooms and indoor walking track.

The space also will be used to care for clients who need supervision during the day due to cognitive challenges and during evening hours, the center will offer day care for children while their parents use the facilities, according to Rodgers.

She said people have told her the proposed community center is “too fancy for Middletown.”

To that, she says, “Let’s raise the bar in Middletown.”

Rodgers said the center is working with an organization that will be conducting a feasibility study and a capital campaign. Middletown voters passed a 1-mill levy that was established to fund debt service for the Central Connections Senior Center. That levy expired last year and in May, Middletown voters passed a 1-mill levy to build four fire stations.

The center will be funded long term through monthly dues adults will pay to use the facility in the evening and from proceeds from events, and restaurant and bar sales, she said.

The expansion is needed to generate additional revenue since the center’s membership is largely in its 80s.

“We had to do something drastic,” she told the Journal-News after the meeting.

She said the center has spent $500,000 remodeling the interior and opening a restaurant and bar.

The center can host up to 800 people, she said. A group from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has contacted the center about hosting 500 people for a Christmas party, and the next day, organizers of a convention want to bring 600 people to Middletown.

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