Duke grants to boost downtown Middletown

Duke Energy is giving downtown Middletown’s revitalization efforts a push in the right direction.

The Charlotte-based energy provider for Ohio and Kentucky announced Tuesday its foundation has committed almost $60,000 towards two projects in downtown Middletown.

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The grants will help kickstart projects in Middletown expected to draw new investment and activity back into the downtown.

Duke has provided a total of $35,000 to the Middletown Community Foundation to help with revitalization of the Sorg Opera House in the form of a $10,000 grant and a $25,000 challenge grant.

The company also provided $23,700 in funding to Grassroots Ohio to help assess the Goetz Tower redevelopment project for predevelopment tax credits. The Goetz Tower project will turn the 30,000-square-foot tower into about 25 apartments and some first floor retail space.

The company announced a total of more than $320,000 in economic development catalyst grants for urban communities in Ohio and northern Kentucky.

Flurry of downtown activity shows support of investors

MIDDLETOWN JOURNAL – Septmber 10, 2013

Revitalizing downtown was once thought by many an impossible dream as businesses were moving out or closing up, and Middletown was named one of the top 10 dying cities in the country in a 2008 Forbes Magazine article.

Downtown Middletown, once claimed by Forbes Magazine in 2008 to be a dying downtown, appears to be making a comeback as a burgeoning area of the city. Development is happening in the core of downtown, new businesses have opened in recent months and new businesses are planning to open in the coming months. Pictured is a view of Central Ave. in Middletown, from atop the former Fifth Third tower, also known as the Goetz Tower.

Downtown Middletown, once claimed by Forbes Magazine in 2008 to be a dying downtown, appears to be making a comeback as a burgeoning area of the city. Development is happening in the core of downtown, new businesses have opened in recent months and new businesses are planning to open in the coming months. Pictured is a view of Central Ave. in Middletown, from atop the former Fifth Third tower, also known as the Goetz Tower.

But the faith of a few business investors in downtown and the city’s leadership has seemingly led to the strongest revitalization attempt in years. The groundwork was laid one piece at a time — which started with taking the roof off the old City Centre Mall and investing demolition money into a building slated to be razed — and now multiple projects are working in harmony.

A lot of that groundwork was because the city had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into either buying buildings or given as loans. The city used demolition money targeted to raze what is now BeauVerre at the Square, invested in the Pendleton Art Center to help get that project off the ground, and purchased a handful of marquee buildings while it was courting Cincinnati State Technical & Community College to open the first community college in Butler County in downtown.

“Our strategic plan involved working in all aspects of the city simultaneously,” said City Manager Judy Gilleland. “We’ve been hitting every piece hard for the last five-and-a-half years. In the last year, we have begun to see the fruits of our labor.”

Local developer Mike Robinette, who’s involved in with a number of downtown Middletown projects, said the pace has picked up in the past six months, but redevelopment activity has been running strong for the past year. That activity includes the opening of Stained 1054 Bistro, the redevelopment of the Masonic Lodge, Sorg Opera House, the former Fifth Third tower and the former Middletown Journal building, and the deal with the city that will see the former Rose Furniture building redeveloped.

“There’s a lot going on,” Robinette said. “I think you’re going to see a much greater level of activity in the next two to three years in downtown. How much of that will be in relationship to now, I don’t know. But as Cincinnati State continues to grow and these other properties are renovated and come online, you’re going to see a lot of activity.”

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Duke Foundation awards $320,000 for 10 urban projects

CINCINNATI EQUIRER – September 10, 2013

The Duke Energy Foundation has awarded 10 grants totaling more than $320,000 to revitalize local urban areas that have experienced job loss and economic downturn.

Grants announced Tuesday:

•  Grassroots Ohio received $23,735 to assist with pre-development tax credit assessments on the Goetz Tower Redevelopment/Middletown Project.

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Former Fifth Third tower to get multimillion dollar makeover

MIDDLETOWN JOURNAL – September 8, 2011

One of the tallest buildings in downtown Middletown may be back into productive use in 18 months after an investment of about $2.5 million.

The former Fifth Third tower, which opened in 1930 as the Middletown Building and Deposit Association, was purchased by Grassroots Ohio in July from Fifth Third Bank for an undisclosed amount. For weeks, crews have been stripping down the one-time bank lobby that had been converted into a retail location for Rogers Jewelers.

Mike Robinette, of Grassroots Ohio LLC, leads a tour of the former Fifth Third tower in downtown Middletown on Wednesday morning. Grassroots Ohio LLC purchased the building in July and will invest an estimated $2.5 million to convert the second to seventh floors into market rate loft apartments and convert the former bank building into a retail location.

Mike Robinette, of Grassroots Ohio LLC, leads a tour of the former Fifth Third tower in downtown Middletown on Wednesday morning. Grassroots Ohio LLC purchased the building in July and will invest an estimated $2.5 million to convert the second to seventh floors into market rate loft apartments and convert the former bank building into a retail location.

The one-time grand entrance to the former bank lobby, which reaches three-and-a-half stories high, is covered with dirt and drywall dust and has a pile of metal duct work laying in the center. But Mike Robinette, a principle with Grassroots Ohio, said the plans are to return the lobby and the building’s subsequent six floors to their historic beauty.

“Certain elements of the property have to be maintained,” said Robinette, which he said includes the exterior of the building, the bank lobby, the South Main Street entrance for the apartments, and the corridors that lead to one-time office suites.

The Middletown Journal took an exclusive tour of the tower, also known as Goetz tower.

Robinette said his group has been working for more than a year to secure the building, which proved to be challenging. Fifth Third operates next to the tower and had shared access points and common utilities. Walls had to be erected and utilities had to be split.

Grassroots Ohio LLC purchased the building in July and will invest an estimated $2.5 million to convert the second to seventh floors into market rate loft apartments and convert the former bank building into a retail location.

Grassroots Ohio LLC purchased the building in July and will invest an estimated $2.5 million to convert the second to seventh floors into market rate loft apartments and convert the former bank building into a retail location.

It will be another six months before construction begins, Robinette said, because they’ll be seeking state and federal historic tax credits, which can help with upwards of 45 percent of the project’s cost. Grassroots Ohio cannot, however, apply for the credits until the spring. And construction cannot begin until the group has received the tax credits.

But Robinette said there is plenty of work to be done until then, including gutting the building, completing design drawings and performing a market rate study for the apartments. The study, he said, will involve Cincinnati State Middletown officials and students.

“We want to sit down with Cincinnati State and talk with them and some students about the kind of housing that there might be a market for from that stand point,” Robinette said. “We want to design it around what we think the market is rather than design it and hope the market fits it.”

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Vacant Middletown building to be converted into downtown housing

DAYTON BUSINESS JOURNAL – September 6 ,2013

A nonprofit development group in Middletown is starting on a $2.5 million project to redevelop an old, vacant office building into apartments and retail space.

Grassroots Ohio is finalizing funding to redevelop the historic Fifth Third Bank Goetz Tower, which will convert the 30,000-square-foot office building at the corner of Central Avenue and Main Street in downtown Middletown into between 24 and 28 apartments and some first-floor retail spaces, said Mike Robinette, president of Grassroots Ohio.

Grassroots Ohio is finalizing funding to redevelop the historic Fifth Third Bank Goetz Tower into between 24 and 28 apartments and some first-floor retail spaces.

Grassroots Ohio is finalizing funding to redevelop the historic Fifth Third Bank Goetz Tower into between 24 and 28 apartments and some first-floor retail spaces.

The project will be the first residential project in downtown Middletown, and could be a catalyst for further revitalization.

Robinette, also a partner in the project, believes there’s a strong demand for downtown housing.

“When Cincinnati State announced their downtown campus, that convinced us to move ahead with the project,” he said. “We think the demand for downtown housing would be there without Cincinnati State, but that makes it even a stronger housing project.”

Cincinnati State opened its Middletown campus in fall of 2012, and has been growing rapidly in enrollment.

Robinette said the floorplans haven’t been defined yet, but he expects the market-rate apartments to be between 800 and 1,200 square feet, and plans to rent them for between $800 and $1,200 per month.

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Rose Furniture building to be restored

MIDDLETOWN JOURNAL – August 22, 2013

City Council decided earlier this week to allow the developer who had a large hand in revitalizing downtown Hamilton to be a part of downtown Middletown’s revival.

City officials had wanted to tear down the former Rose Furniture building at 36 S. Main St., but the city’s historic commission said it must keep the facade. A little more than a month ago, Middletown officials were presented with an offer from Historic Rose Furniture, LLC where they could unload the building the city received from the state. The group later revised its offer to include purchasing an adjacent building that had been damaged because of a leaky roof on the Rose building.

Council approved a deal Tuesday night to give the former Rose Furniture building to Historic Rose Furniture LLC to restore and reuse the structure. The city will give the developer $300,000 to stabilize the building and make repairs.

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