Why Hamilton isn’t the new OTR, but so much more
As local businesswoman Sara Vallandingham of Sara’s House has said so well;
“The City of Hamilton is in the midst of magical days. “
This is a feeling that is impossible to ignore. Once blighted and empty storefronts are full. Murals by area artists provide beauty that captures the spirit of the city. What was once empty lots, have become parks and community spaces.
The city’s resurgence often draws comparisons to the Over-the-Rhine revitalization. Both areas have seen small business and the arts drive growth and change. Both areas have leveraged historical properties and parks to improve quality of life. Both areas see increasing investments being driven by a sense of place. However, Hamilton’s renaissance, while at the heels of OTR’s makeover, is complete of its own. Uniquely, Hamilton’s revival has been led by a rare partnership between the city government, private companies, and local non-profits.
To be fair to OTR is a neighborhood and not a city. Also to be fair to OTR, Hamilton is a population that brings an unmatchable level of badassery to their city.
While Hamiltonians have different ideas and opinions, but there is a common goal of our city’s success. Because of this drive, we see more people at the table contributing ideas, time, and talent. A great example of this is Core Hamilton, a non-profit led by local architect Mike Dingeldein that connects government, private companies, and non-profits to help improve decaying properties in the urban core of the city to attract private investors.
At the heart of Hamilton’s comeback is a community spirit of resilience. The closing of major Hamilton employers, including manufacturers, a major hospital, and retail stores, led to the devastation that long defined us. After decades of divestment, the city staff led by City Manager Joshua Smith and Economic Development Director Jody Gunderson recruited businesses back, slashing the unemployment rate from over 10% in 2012 to under 5% in 2017.
Live. Work. Play.
Hamilton has become a better place to live and work, it has quickly become the place for play. The Fitton Center for Creative Arts provides a season of programming that is affordable and of excellent quality. Operation Pumpkin, led by a group of locals, shuts down the city’s downtown to celebrate the season each October. The Riversedge venue brings thousands together in the new Marcum Park for great music. The We Are Hamilton campaign explained it best: we are throwing the best parties and inviting all to join us.
All of these efforts have resulted in projects that were once unimaginable, including new downtown apartments and restaurants, plus the upcoming Spooky Nook Sports Complex in the once Champion Paper Company, a property that symbolizes the city’s successes, failures, and come back.
Comparing Hamilton’s revitalization to OTR is impossible. Our city leads a new example of what can be accomplished when collaboration leads to our competition. We still have a lot to accomplish and we invite the world to join us.
About Ashlee Willis
Ashlee Willis is a financial advisor for Edward Jones and recently opened her office in the German Village neighborhood. She is also a proud Hamilton volunteer and citizen. Willis is a Hamilton Rotarian, a member of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Hamilton Vision Commission. She also serves on the boards of the YWCA Hamilton, The Fitton Center for Creative Arts, and the City of Hamilton Nuisance Board. She lives with her husband Andy and German Shepherd Ginsburg in the Highland Park neighborhood