HAMILTON, Ohio — The city of Hamilton has received a $48 million cash injection since October 2018, with tens of millions more on the way in 2020, officials announced Thursday at the annual State of the City address. Every dollar represents hope that the once-beleaguered industrial city can enter the upcoming decade keeping pace with — or potentially even surpassing — larger communities in the area.
“Hamilton is exploding,” said Dan Bates, president of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce.
Officials announced Thursday night the Cafeo Hospitality Group, which owns local restaurants Jefferson Social and Incline Public House, plans to build a new eatery called Billy Yanks in downtown Hamilton.
That’s in addition to a separate $50 million apartment and retail development in the city’s Lindenwald neighborhood, not to mention the enormous $144 million Spooky Nook sports complex slated to open in 2021.
The entire sum represents an antidote to the Hamilton in which Chris Connell has lived for the last decade. Connell, a homeowner of 53 years, said he loves his community but remembers its leanest years vividly.
“I look back at 10 years ago,” he said. “Champion (Paper Mill) was going out of business. Ohio Casualty was leaving. Fisher Body left in the 80s. You started to give up hope.”
Spooky Nook will be built where Champion Paper Mill stands now. Connell is excited to see it.
“The transformation the city has had has been phenomenal,” he said. “It’s a buzz. It’s infectious. And people are on board.”
Bates emphasized the city’s transformation would be one of character, not just of economic prospects.
“(The development) will bring other exciting, entrepreneurial, cutting-edge technologies to Hamilton,” he said. “We’re kind of becoming a hub for things that are new, different and exciting. Edgy. Something you won’t find anywhere else.”
The Rev. Shaq Mathews, who has lived in Hamilton all her life, said she’s excited to take her two children to Spooky Nook and spend time with friends at Billy Yanks. She almost didn’t notice how radically her hometown was changing until she stopped to think about it.
“Best days are ahead,” she said. “I think we have a lot to be thankful for. (I’d like) to say thank you. And let’s keep going.”