“Stakeholders” in a possible Hillsboro redevelopment district had varying ideas for improving the city during a Tuesday meeting, but seemed to reach a general consensus about their community: Hillsboro is surviving as a small Ohio town because the people here care.
According to Nate Green, a consultant with the Montrose Group who moderated discussion during the meeting, redevelopment districts came about as a result of legislation passed last year by the state legislature, and exist as a tool to redevelop certain areas of a community.
Green said redevelopment districts, which are limited to 10-acre areas, draw revenue from existing property taxes to redevelop infrastructure, conduct building rehab and finance operating organizations in the area.
Part of adopting a redevelopment district, according to Green, is the inception of an economic development plan which stakeholders — local business owners and officials — would create.
Green said holding meetings where stakeholders can exchange ideas is an important part of the process.
According to Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings, the city is considering two such districts – one in the uptown area, and one near the fairground where the Gross-Feible building stands.
Hastings said a redevelopment district in that area would be used to create a “light industrial district,” and may be a good place to establish a hotel. According to Hastings, the city recently conducted a feasibility study for a new hotel, and found the community has a need for one.
Tim Koehl, who owns the Paxton Theatre in Bainbridge, said he believes tearing down the rear portion of the old Parker House hotel building and constructing a new hotel there, while retaining the original facade, would be a better idea.
Koehl referenced the General Denver Hotel in Wilmington, which he said began with one hotel room and grew into a thriving inn and restaurant.
Ann Morris and Joe Mahan, both uptown business owners who serve in city leadership — Morris on city council, Mahan as president of the Hillsboro Uptown Business Association — agreed that parking options in the uptown area are limited, causing hassles for potential out-of-town customers and local residents.
Rob Holt, a young Hillsboro native who recently was appointed to the Hillsboro Planning Commission, said he feels attracting youth back to Hillsboro would go a long way.
“It’s all about getting young people here,” he said. “Get young families to spend money.”
Holt said finding a way to install better housing in the uptown area, mainly “loft-style” above existing businesses, would bring more young professionals into the city.
Hillsboro Safety and Service Director Mel McKenzie said that adding an entertainment district uptown would also attract a younger crowd.
Mark Wilson of Wilson National Real Estate said the city needs more businesses that suit local needs.
“You can dress it up all you want,” he said, “but you still need businesses.”
Wilson said he’s been to plenty of small towns throughout Ohio, and he observed that Hillsboro seems to be doing well compared to many other communities of a similar size.
When Green asked why that is, several stakeholders agreed it’s because Hillsboro residents seem to care a great deal about their community.
“We’re fighting for it,” Wilson said.
Hastings said legislation on the matter will hopefully be considered by council later this year.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.