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Middletown's 'Hollywoodland' getting skepticism from some residents

Concerns include high traffic, and damage to local historic neighborhoods
Renders of Proposed Middletown 'Hollywoodland' project
Posted at 11:50 AM, Oct 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 10:29:52-04

MIDDLETOWN — Middletown City Council faced questions about the proposed proposed 'Hollywoodland' development during its rollout at Tuesday's council meeting.

Residents expressed concerns for what a building this size could do to traffic in the city, specifically in areas already highly trafficked like Main Street.

"This project has the unintended potential to cause irreparable damage to the historic neighborhoods including Forest Hills," said Renee Fossom, a Middletown resident.

Main Street Community Capital LLC, the project's developer, gave a presentation at Tuesday's council meeting for the $1.3 billion project.

The initial release from the city said the development is expected to include:

  • Three hotels
  • A major indoor entertainment concert venue for major national and international touring acts and Broadway productions.
  • An indoor amusement park
  • A market-rate apartment and condominium complex
  • A structured and integrated underground parking deck that will be publicly owned
  • Permanent pre- and post-production motion picture studio sound stages
  • Multiple restaurants, bars, retail outlets and possibly a comedy club.

Talks have been underway for the development for more than a year. During the city council meeting, Middletown residents spoke out about their feelings on the project, good and bad.

The scope of the project is huge, planned to span two blocks in downtown Middletown near the Miami River.

"Thousands of new jobs, over $1 billion in private investment and an estimated 3.5 million yearly visitors to Middletown are a few of the monumental impacts of the project," the release stated.

The city would use $7.5 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act toward pre-construction work. At the city council meeting, founding partner David Rachie said Middletown taxpayers won't be on the hook for any of the project's cost.

"Citizens will not be on the hook for any of it and there will be no local taxes used at all for this project," Rachie said.

Business owners expressed interest for the plan, but some at the city council meeting said that, despite the year-long talks the city has held with the developer, the entire process feels rushed, with a touch of deja vu.

"The city center mall, the opera house and the Manchester Inn," said Fossom. "It sounds a little too good to be true."

Jim Palenick, Middletown's city manager, disagrees and said there's no catch for residents and business owners in Middletown.

"It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Palenick stated in the press release. "To take full advantage of a myriad of local, city, state and federal incentives, we have found a way to access, and in turn change, the future of the city."

During the meeting Palenick encouraged residents to vet the program — and him, since he said he's putting his reputation on the line for this project.

"If you don't trust in it, if you don't believe in it, then more than anything, you can't trust, you can't vet and you can't believe in me," Palenick said. "Because I'm putting my reputation behind this."