We are working on projects in MADE Industrial Park, at the airport, on the East End, and other areas, but downtown seems to be the economic development area that irritates people or the part of this city’s rebirth that the residents don’t fully understand.
People have asked me why we support the redevelopment of the Goetz Tower into luxury apartments. I’d love to say that we came upon some revolutionary new idea that only Middletown can take advantage of, but the reality is that we are already behind the curve of other redeveloping cities.
Cities across the country have discovered that people are wanting to get away from their technology and suburban lifestyle and reconnect with their community in places like downtown. The empty nesters want things to do and the freedom of smaller housing and walkable streets. Many of he millennial don’t care about owning a house or a car, but care tremendously about the quality of their surroundings.
The city invested in commercial downtown property about five years ago, buying several buildings from the Thatcher estate. We invested in Cincinnati State and Pendleton Arts Center as anchors that could bring other people to the area. Move forward a few years, and we have over 30 businesses operating downtown and several more scheduled to open in 2017. It started with the City’s commitment to the area. Now we spend less tax dollars and the private sector carries the burden of investment in the area businesses.
Goetz Tower is the residential equivalent to the Thatcher commercial buildings. Every downtown that has come back from neglect and abandonment has done so with a residential component downtown. To be sustainable, downtown needs people living downtown with disposable income.
You can see projects in the Cincinnati area that are already ahead of us and thriving. Look at examples of the investments made in Hamilton, Over the Rhine and Covington/ Newport Kentucky.
Downtown Hamilton Improvements:
Over the Rhine Improvements:
Covington, Kentucky Improvements:
We now have a new downtown plan that is complete and being vetted by City Council.
It incorporates the existing buildings and riverfront to make the most attractive downtown experience to live, work, and play.
So why do we think the Goetz Tower will work? First, look at the examples above and I believe the concept is sound. Second, we are partnering with Steve Coon, the Canton, Ohio historic developer who has already completed successful projects in Hamilton. Steve’s work can be seen in the slide show below.
Steve Coon’s Work
What sold us beyond his various skills and projects, however, was my visit last year to the Onesto Hotel in downtown Canton. This is one of Steve’s first projects in downtown Canton and the model that he showed me as to what could be done with the Goetz Tower.
The Onesto Hotel – Downtown Canton
We have a similar design for the Goetz Tower. It will be elegant and we believe successful. Part of the problem that banks have in investing in new projects is that they don’t want the risk of investing in a new concept. They want someone else to take the risk and then when the concept is proven valid and the risk is reduced, they are more likely to invest in future projects.
Goetz is that first project in a new concept. Like the Mercantile Lofts were in Hamilton. Like the first major redevelopment in Over the Rhine and Covington. Like the Onesto in Canton. Goetz is that project that people say “what in the world are they thinking?’
This concept has been successfully utilized in downtowns all over the country. There is no reason to believe that it will not be successful here. Assuming Geotz is successful, then other developers and banks will see that upper scale redevelopment can be successfully and profitably done in downtown Middletown and then the additional residential development contemplated in the new Downtown Master Plan seems like a logical extension of the work already done.
Some people think I’m dead wrong. I think I’m right. One of us is wrong. I hope it’s them and not me.