How a city shed its decaying 1990s image and became a model for post-industrial America

“In a very compressed timeframe, some of the largest and most iconic employers in Hamilton left,” Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said. “That’s 5,000 to 8,000 jobs… what do you do?”

Thirteen years later, Hamilton is the dream scenario of every midsized Rust Belt town.

Its dismal 20th-century fortunes have given way to widespread redevelopment, renewed population growth and every telltale of modern prosperity – coffee shops, breweries, coworking spots, public spaces, dog parks, murals, live music, residential infill, green energy, advanced manufacturing and the rescue of its gigantic former industrial sites from oblivion.

The city has around $1 billion in developments waiting in the wings.

Hamilton’s comeback wouldn’t be what it is without Spooky Nook, which opened in the Champion Mill in May 2022. The massive sports complex features a fitness area; climbing/adventure center; hardwood, turf and sport courts for volleyball, field hockey, basketball; and more.

Local retailers and restaurants including Municipal Brew Works have located inside the facility, and King Corona restaurant will open in fall 2024 at the North B Street entrance. A boutique hotel is in the works.

A fourth large adaptive reuse project is also in the early stages, Smith said. Cincinnati-based Bloomfield/Schon could invest $25 million redeveloping the historic Shuler & Benninghofen Woolen Mill on U.S. Route 127 in the Lindenwald neighborhood a mile south of downtown Hamilton. The project could yield 100 apartments and retail spaces.

Three more new hotels will come to Hamilton in the next few years

“The city has been doing well in recent years, but we’re not taking it for granted,” Smith said. “We need to aggressively recruit housing, hospitality and other amenities to provide a ‘central social district’ that will insulate us if the work-from-home trend continues.”


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