Future of $1.3B Hollywoodland appears dim as some against project

Artist rendering of the proposed Hollywoodland development in downtown Middletown, which city officials say would bring $1.3 billion in investment and thousands of jobs to the city. The vote on the project apparently will be held early next year when two new council members are seated. CONTRIBUTED
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Artist rendering of the proposed Hollywoodland development in downtown Middletown, which city officials say would bring $1.3 billion in investment and thousands of jobs to the city. The vote on the project apparently will be held early next year when two new council members are seated. CONTRIBUTED

Newly elected council members, three others to decide fate of project in 2022

It appears the future of the region’s largest proposed project, an estimated $1.3 billion entertainment-themed destination in Middletown, will be decided next year when two new council members are seated.

Council member Ami Vitori, at the end of a 3 1/2-hour meeting Tuesday night, suggested delaying a vote on Hollywoodland until newly-elected council members Zack Ferrell and Rodney Muterspaw are seated and after six weeks of town hall meetings are held.

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Mayor Nicole Condrey has said she’s against the project and when contacted Wednesday by this news media outlet, Ferrell and Muterspaw said they’re against Hollywoodland.

Ferrell said he’s thankful council decided to wait until 2022 to vote on the project because the new council will have to “carry it through for four years” if it passes.

Muterspaw, like he did throughout his campaign, remains against the project. While he’s keeping “an open mind,” Muterspaw said he works for Middletown residents and they have spoken “loud and clear” against Hollywoodland.

“I just haven’t seen enough to change my mind,” he said.

Vitori said the project, debated by council members and Middletown residents for weeks, hasn’t been given “a fair shake.” She hopes the town hall meetings allow city officials and the proposed developers, Main Street Community Capital, to answer residents’ concerns.

She wants the project to be “judged on its true merits,” she said. “There are so many good things that people haven’t heard.”

Vitoi, who didn’t seek re-election, and fellow council member Monica Nenni own downtown businesses and earlier indicated they wouldn’t vote on Hollywoodland due to potential conflicts of interests. But at Tuesday’s meeting they said they had received their opinions from the Ohio Ethics Commission and they can discuss and vote on the project.

“I’d hate to see this kind of potentially transformative project go away without getting a fair shake,” Vitori said.

She said after hearing from residents, the developers and city officials, the five-person council can decide.

After that she said: “If we don’t want it, we don’t want it.”

Residents have voiced their concerns about the city spending $7.5 million of its American Rescue Plan Act funds on the project, the proposed 50-acre location near the Great Miami River and historic downtown, how the project that is expected to attract 3.5 million visitors annually would create traffic congestion, the need for infrastructure improvements and the track record of the developers.

Nenni and council member Tal Moon have said they support Hollywoodland, while Mayor Nicole Condrey has said she’s against the proposal. Throughout their campaigns, Ferrell and Muterspaw said they wouldn’t support the project.

If those votes remain the same, the proposal would fail 3-2.

Condrey said the project has been given “a fair shake,” but she agreed to let the new council decide.

For the project to be successful, Nenni said it’s “vitally important” to have the support of the community.

Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan, who lost his re-election bid, thought council was going to vote on the legislation at its next meeting on Dec. 7. He was surprised when told that vote wouldn’t happen.

Council had hoped to vote of the proposal before the end of the year because that’s when the option agreements will expire.

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