HAMILTON, Ohio - Taking run-down older buildings and restoring them to their former glory.
It’s out with the old and in with the new as Hamilton’s CORE program works to revitalize downtown one building at a time.
When we first got here, we didn’t have any neighbors,” laughed Rachel Steinman, owner of a Pet Wants store for nearly a year. “There was a huge hole, plywood. Wind, leaves, dirt, dust - anything could blow through it. It took a lot of vision casting to see what this could be.”
Fast forward to today.
“That fabric is still here. It’s fabulous. You can’t build new like that today,” said Michael Dingeldein, executive director of Hamilton CORE Fund. “It’s really more about pulling back our leftover wealth from our industrial era.”
Dingledein said they find older buildings, gut them, and then work with tenants to develop their dream location. All this started as a dream for him five years ago.
“Our worst enemy was ourselves. We didn’t believe we could bring the city back from the brink,” Dingledein said. “Now, I think most residents have seen enough progress they’re starting to believe in it.”
Quarter Barrel Brewery already had a location in Oxford, but the owners couldn’t pass up their new one in downtown Hamilton with a rooftop patio and a view of the city.
“We’re looking to expand our brewing," said co-owner Patrick Karousis. "Of the options we had, I think this is probably the best one. A larger system. A lot more beer. A lot more efficient. Larger kitchen and business.”
And a rootop patio with a view of the city.
Businesses sign a 5- to 10-year lease and have the option to buy the building at the end of the lease. It’s being hailed as a win-win for the city.
“We’re seeing a quality of life that is keeping people in town for things other than work and live. The play part. We’re seeing a lot of activities after hours,” Dingeldein said.
Take it from Mindy Staton.
“We’ve been flooded with business,” she said. “I never knew it would be this great.”
Her business, Two Little Buds Florist in Hamilton, has been around for 11 years.
“We wanted more of a small-town vibe instead of a shopping mall,” Staton said. “I felt like it was more the street. I loved the way it just felt like a studio space. Not so much a retail space.”
Right next door there’s a new space under renovation - a classic soda fountain shoppe with its original seats waiting for kids to taste a bit of history. Upstairs rooms will soon be upscale apartments.
“We’re happy to be in this community. The movement that’s happening here is amazing,” Staton said.