With help of nonprofit consortium, downtown Hamilton will be hopping with new businesses, residents

CORE projects move beyond High Street to Main

HAMILTON, Ohio -- Hamilton's urban core is expected to have five new businesses and 18 new apartments by year's end, thanks to a reinvestment consortium.

Representatives for CORE, or the Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts, are teaming up with city officials and business owners on four projects aimed at revitalizing the city's historic downtown.

"We have a all-hands-on-deck (approach) led by the city manager and City Council," said CORE Executive Director Michael Dingeldein.

CORE is a nonprofit consortium that leverages funding to renovate and fill vacancies in Hamilton's historic downtown buildings. With the help of city officials and other organizations, the consortium has helped create about 3,000 new jobs in three years.

"Quality of life was our primary sort of focus as a city, and that drove the new jobs," Dingeldein said.

The consortium has three funds designed to accelerate Hamilton's urban renaissance: An investment fund, strategic property fund and residential redevelopment fund. The strategic property fund is responsible for supporting the four projects underway on Main Street.

Projects that fall under this fund are subject to a three-step process. CORE first acquires a building and performs basic renovations on windows and doors to ensure it's weather-tight. The consortium's representatives then match the building with a potential tenant and do an interior buildout to meet the business owner's needs. The third step is to either close on the building or lease the space.

Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub, Pet Wants and Fleurish Home are among the tenants matched for the properties currently under renovation.

"It's obviously a ridiculously good opportunity for us to get in when we're getting in," said Quarter Barrel co-owner Brandon Ney.

The Main Street brewery and restaurant will be Quarter Barrel's second location. Although the business started in Oxford, adding a second location in Hamilton would be "a culminating vision," Ney said.

"The two will really benefit each other in terms of efficiency," he said.

For Rachel Steinman, who co-owns Pet Wants' Hamilton location with her husband, the city's sense of community was a major factor in setting up shop there.

"We really wanted to be in a place that really felt like home and felt like family," she said.

The collaboration between CORE, city officials, businesses and other organizations also helped make the process easier than it might have been otherwise.

"It's very much a network that extends far beyond CORE," Steinman said.

That collaborative effort is integral to CORE's successes, since individual projects may call for different types of financing solutions, from private funding to tax credits and bank loans.

"Every project needs a different set of tools," Dingeldein said.

CORE is working on four projects on Main Street in downtown Hamilton. (Photo provided)

The collaboration benefits the businesses as well as the city.

"We need people on the street who can support storefront businesses, and we need storefront businesses that can support people," Dingeldein said.

CORE representatives also are focusing their reinvestment efforts on different parts of the city's historic downtown. Until now, their work has primarily taken place on High Street. This year's projects mark a shift to target Main Street.

The businesses already matched to the Main Street projects are expected to begin opening over the next few months.

Steinman hopes to be operating Pet Wants by sometime in July. Quarter Barrel should be open by year's end, but Ney hopes to be up and running in October.

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