HAMILTON, Ohio -- The space where Mercy Hospital once stood is all grass now, but that's not a bad thing. Bad was 2006, when the hospital closed and Hamilton lost one of its most significant employers.
The decade-long renovation of its one-time site involved cultivating green space, constructing the outdoor concert venue RiversEdge Ampitheater and Overlook, and adding places for children to play and food trucks to park.
For city planning director Liz Hayden, the process represents a revitalization she hopes will spread to the rest of Hamilton.
"A park like this tells businesses that people care about this place," she said.
The American Planning Association agreed. RiversEdge at Marcum Park ranked among the five best public spaces in the United States on the APA's annual Great Places in America list.
According to the APA, Great Places in America are those that "make communities stronger and bring people together through good planning." RiversEdge at Marcum Park's entry praises its consistent schedule of programming, which draws people to downtown Hamilton, and its wide variety of "high-quality amenities" that residents -- especially those from low-income households -- might not be able to enjoy without it.
Nearby resident Ian Mackenzie-Thurley knew Hamilton was special before the award. He and his wife, Kelly, bought and refurbished a house in the German Village neighborhood in 2016.
They hope growing awareness of Hamilton's renaissance will inspire other families to do the same: Find a less-loved corner of an often-forgotten city and make it their home.
"They've built a foundation now that's a launching pad for everything else," he said. "I think everybody knows it now."