SMITH: The most important component to success with sustaining and recruiting new restaurants, bars, and retail spaces is job creation. We have to continue to be aggressive on job creation, otherwise our ability to support existing and new commercial establishments diminishes.
We are also continuing to increase residential housing units (Rossville Flats, Beckett Paper) to help keep feet on the street to support our small businesses. As well as recruiting solid restaurant operators in our urban core districts that help support our efforts in job creation, quality of life for our residents, and become anchors for our retail operators.
BATES: The environment will be bustling. I can see the side streets off Main and High becoming more attractive to potential tenants than ever before as locations on High and Main become more scarce. If this holiday season and the past year in general is any indication of the future, there is increasing demand. More people are coming from outside the city of Hamilton and that increased traffic is driving sales.
It is also making the locals take notice as they see increased foot traffic. When people see a crowd at a place like the HUB (on Main) they want to stop and see why everyone is there. It is no different citywide. Once you create a buzz, the buzz creates more engagement. People are going to have to start utilizing parking garages and side street parking more and understand that there may be increased wait times at restaurants. The businesses will do well because their new customer base and geographic customer footprint is increasing.
What do you think will be the state of Hamilton neighborhoods by the end of 2022?
SMITH: We are striving for continuous improvement in all 17 neighborhoods on an annual basis. 17Strong as an entity continues to gain momentum. With the addition of street levy funds, it will allow us to be more aggressive in street resurfacing in our neighborhoods. Our Public Safety forces do a great job servicing our neighborhoods. The Hamilton Parks Conservancy has done great work in our neighborhood parks. We need to maintain and improve those levels of service in each neighborhood on annual basis.
How many hotels do you hope will have broken ground in the city by late 2022?
SMITH: By the end of 2022, we will have almost tripled the number of rooms available in downtown Hamilton (Marriott has 120; Spooky Nook will have 233). I believe we will have at least two new hotels under construction before summer of 2023.
BATES: I hope we have three or four, but pretty sure at least two will be on their way by the end of 2022.
Housing stock in Hamilton – how might that be different? More neighborhoods seem to be seeing improvements.
SMITH: In my neighborhood of Rossville, three houses within a block of mine have seen significant improvements in the past six months. That trend has been happening in many neighborhoods, and we need to support the investment by our neighborhood work mentioned in an earlier question. Also, as our downtown becomes even more dynamic, there should be more apartment and condo options in the near future, which will provide housing for young professionals and empty nesters.
What other possibilities are out there that people have no idea about?
SMITH: Due to the City’s recent economic development success, the pipeline of development prospects continues to grow. I believe people will be surprised, absent another pandemic or recession, at the amount of development that will occur in the next 5-10 years.
BATES: It’s not just restaurant and retail. As the economic engine moves forward so will opportunities in service industries that support the front-line businesses. That is incredibly exciting. As new housing comes on line, the publicity will drive greater desire for people to live in Hamilton. We will finally see a significant growth in a younger population and out of that will become new leaders with even newer ideas for what Hamilton could be like 10 to 15 years from now. The naysayers will still exist but no longer have a voice because as other residents look around at all the positive things that are happening, they will have no patience for the negative. Airbnb’s (bed and breakfasts) will become much more prevalent. There could also be a new crime surge as out-of-state plates become potential targets. Tourists will not just be on the main corridor, they will be venturing into neighborhoods in transition and we need to be ready to handle that. I hope a farmers market comes on line within the next year or two. The rowing club will become a viable entity that gives Hamilton greater visibility. Entrepreneurial startups will continue to increase to ride the wave.
Any predictions of new areas where businesses will begin to open?
BATES: I see Main Street beginning to expand to the side streets. There will be new options on the West Side as more chains see opportunities other than just downtown. I see East High Street coming on line all the way to Route 4. B Street south of Main will become more viable as new businesses open to feed off locals and tourists as they pass through to Spooky Nook.
What do you expect to be the biggest challenges/dangers to Greater Hamilton in the coming year?
BATES: Making sure that everyone who visits our city has a positive customer service experience. Making sure our businesses and residents embrace the new faces. In addition, we will need to keep what makes Hamilton wonderful respected as we transform. There will also be two populations to please and cater to, the locals and the tourists who are here for two or three days, three times per year.
What’s your bottom-line prognosis for the city?
BATES: There will continue to be surprises, positive and negative, that need to be managed as they arise, but enthusiasm for all that’s happening in Hamilton will become infectious. 2022 will be a driver year as many new projects come alive and need to be managed. Some of those projects are catalysts that will create dramatic change in 2023 and 2024 in neighborhoods like Lindenwald, Dayton Lane and the North End. East High Street and other development will create change in Jefferson.
What a great time to be in Hamilton. I feel I am part of something so much larger than myself and it just keeps getting better and better.