HAMILTON, Ohio — Hamilton is looking to give $450,000 to the city’s Community Improvement Corporation to help businesses in older buildings meet newer building codes, such as access for handicapped customers and installing newer kitchens’ fire-suppression hood systems.
Under the regulations being considered, are arrangements where the grant would pay half a project’s costs, up to $75,000, with the business paying the rest, said Tom Vanderhorst, Hamilton’s director of external services.
“This is really helpful because it reactivates the re-use of challenging buildings,” Vanderhorst said. The city has run into issues at several older, historic buildings officials would like to see redeveloped.
City Manager Joshua Smith recently told City Council his staff hears from many property owners who complain about neighboring properties that are vacant or not fully in use “because owners don’t have the funds necessary to make improvements.”
Smith mentioned the former Andy’s Restaurant, at 939 Main St., which served its last meals Sept. 1, 2018, after more than six decades in business, and the former Ohio Lunch that was at 332 High St., as places that could have benefited. Ohio Lunch operated at more than one location, beginning in 1927, including on High Street since 1968.
Those restaurants “never had the capital needed to make some of the hood improvements that were necessary by code,” Smith said. “We have a lot of buildings that were built well before certain fire-suppression standards were in place. That can get very costly.”
At the former Ohio Casualty complex, now rebranded as the Third + Dayton apartment-and-retail complex, owners have slowly been installing fire-suppression systems that likely will cost more than $1 million, Smith said.
“It gets pricy,” Vanderhorst said, noting that at the Davis Building, at 302 Main St., home to the Village Parlor of Hamilton ice cream shop, it was necessary to install a wheel-chair ramp for customer access.
“This is modeled after the upper-floor residential program that’s currently being administered by the Community Improvement Corporation,” Vanderhorst said.
According to a report to council, the program would be aimed at restaurants, entertainment venues and mixed-use projects “that have large investments required to meet today’s building codes.”
The report did not identify the proposed source of the funds.
“This is really to help accelerate people’s ability to get into some of these buildings,” Smith said, so rather than being empty with weeds growing outside, “we’re trying to help people find that path forward.”
Exact details of the program, if it is approved by council, have yet to be worked out.