Hamilton answers demand for more downtown parking

Hamilton is building a new parking lot behind Butler County’s parking garage adjacent to the county/city government complex, for the convenience of existing and future employers. GREG LYNCH / JOURNAL-NEWS
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Hamilton is building a new parking lot behind Butler County’s parking garage adjacent to the county/city government complex, for the convenience of existing and future employers. GREG LYNCH / JOURNAL-NEWS

Hamilton’s city government is building a new parking lot not far from the city/county government towers, and across from Butler County’s parking garage.

The 152-space lot should be finished in late August and will cost about $660,000. Spaces will be numbered and available for monthly renters.

The city charges $30 per month for most parking spaces throughout the city and Rich Engle, the city’s engineering director said the rates are expected to be the same for the new lot.

“We have more folks working downtown that are in need of parking spaces,” Engle said. “And in anticipation of other businesses moving into the central business district.”

Among companies that recently moved in were the Kirsch CPA Group LLC law firm, now occupying part of the former Fifth Third building at 2 S. Third St., with others expected to follow in coming months.

The county’s five-story structure also costs $30 a month on the open-air fifth floor, but $5 more a month for covered spaces in the rest of the building, according to the commissioner’s office manager Erica Cooper. They routinely have a daily waiting list that numbers in the dozens for covered monthly parking. That’s why Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he isn’t worried about competition from the new city lot.

“I’m sure there will be some competition, but all but one floor (in the county garage) is covered,” Rogers said. “And that’s a value I think will still be in demand.”

The county — once it took control of the 623-space garage it once shared with the city in 2013 — started talking about automating what’s been dubbed the “Stone Age” garage, but those attempts have stalled several times.

They have run into problems largely because there are so many different types of payers who use the facility. There are monthly, daily, hourly and some, like jurors, who get vouchers from the court to park for free.

Estimates to automate the facility ranged from $100,000 to $400,000, but the operative amount had been $200,000 to $250,000. County Administrator Charlie Young said the county plans to take another look at automation this summer.

“We didn’t really like the answers we had as far as the cost of changing the way we operated it…,” Young said. “It’s just been a struggle because the return on that investment hasn’t been there to get us to invest in a new system.”

In addition to the county garage, Hamilton owns a parking garage half a block northeast of the intersection of High and 3rd streets.

Largely driven by the non-profit CORE (Consortium for Ongoing Reinvestment Efforts) Fund, businesses have been filling abandoned spaces along High and Main streets. The upstairs of buildings in particular have been upgraded to modern, bright workplaces.

Coming available is the Butler Tech School of the Arts building, formerly the Journal-News building. Also still available is the former Ohio Casualty building.

Upper-floor levels along Main Street also are available, but those are being developed for residences, with the exception of the Quarter Barrel building at Main and South B streets, which is operated by the microbrewery and restaurant on all levels.