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Middletown making improvements downtown

Posted at 6:08 PM, Feb 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-09 19:51:03-05

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- There are big changes happening in downtown Middletown these days, with new businesses popping up one-by-one.

Soon work will begin on a project that city leaders believe will be a cornerstone of the redevelopment. As they go, they hope to change hearts and minds in the process.

The next step for downtown Middletown is the addition of market rate apartments at the historic Goetz Tower. As city leaders look forward, part of the challenge is making sure residents see what they see. From hip murals to places like Triple Moon Coffee Company, the look of downtown Middletown is changing.

"It's been really awesome," Triple Moon owner Heather Gibson said.

Gibson opened the business in Middletown about two years ago.

"When I opened the coffee shop down here, people thought I was nuts, but I saw what Middletown could be from traveling to other cities and other small towns, and I believed that I was going to be on the cusp of something huge," she said.

Jennifer Ekey, the economic development director for Middletown, said she believes trendy urban living inside the Goetz Tower will be part of that "something huge."

"This will be our first foray into market rate housing in our downtown," Ekey said "That's why this is such a critical piece for us in, sort of, the revitalization of downtown Middletown."

It's critical because they don't just want to bring people downtown -- they want to keep them there.

But it seems the vision is getting some resistance. City Manager Doug Adkins wrote in his blog that "downtown seems to be the economic development area that irritates people or part of this city's rebirth that the residents don't fully understand."

So what is the answer to winning people over? It may involve getting people to stop looking at Middletown's past, and get them instead looking toward its future, according to Ekey.

"People remember Middletown the way it used to be, and it's never going to be the way it was in the '30s or the '40s or the '50s or the '60s, but that's OK," Ekey said. "We're here to create something new."

Gibson agreed.

"I think the more that we do down here and the more people that come down here, it's going to happen, it's just going to take time to get that old mentality out," Gibson said.

Officials hope to have the Goetz Tower renovation done in a year with 16 units. From there, the city hopes the future holds as many as 180 more units as part of the continued rebirth of downtown.