Once-troubled Middletown hotel is latest business to change after battles with police

The former Parkway Inn on North Verity Parkway in Middletown has been sold to a California company and renamed Travel Host Inn. The rooms are being upgraded and the manager said she wants to “change the image” of the hotel.
Caption
The former Parkway Inn on North Verity Parkway in Middletown has been sold to a California company and renamed Travel Host Inn. The rooms are being upgraded and the manager said she wants to “change the image” of the hotel.

Middletown officials are hoping the sale of a Middletown hotel, once labeled “notorious for drug activity,” will reduce the number of police calls to the business, allow law enforcement resources to be used elsewhere and clean up local neighborhoods.

From 2011-16, Middletown police were called to the Parkway Inn, 2425 N. Verity Parkway, 820 times — or an average of 136 times per year — for various citations, according to police records.

The Parkway Inn, now called the Travel Host Inn, was sold for $415,000 to CUP Properties of Ohio, based in Valencia, Calif., according to the Butler County Auditor’s Office. The company also operates a hotel in Vandalia, just north of Dayton.

MORE POPULAR STORIES: ‘I really think Middletown is coming back’: Why 8 downtown properties could soon have new life

Since the sale last year, the new owners have renovated 30 of the 55 rooms, said Tina Srofe, manager of Travel Host Inn. The goal, she said, is to “change the image” of the hotel and eliminate the “riffraff.”

The renovated rooms are being rented for $225 a week, including a $100 cash deposit, she said. Once the other 25 rooms are remodeled, Travel Host Inn will offer nightly and weekly rates, she said. She said the hotel will offer a breakfast bar and laundry services.

This is the third time the property has been sold in the last 22 years. It sold for $810,000 in 2007 and $520,000 in 1997, according to the auditor’s office.

The former Parkway Inn has been under scrutiny for years by the Middletown police department because of the number of police calls to the property. Three years ago, the department spent a “substantial” amount of time responding to calls at Parkway Inn, a trend that concerned Rodney Muterspaw, the police chief.

The hotel made headlines in 2016 when police officers and paramedics were called to room 130 on the report that a 5-year-old was not breathing. The boy, Alexander Stephens, died from those injuries on April 29, 2016 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, and his brother Damyan, 6, suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The boys’ mother, Theresa Hawkins-Stephens, 26, was charged with murder, two counts of felonious assault and two counts of endangering children. Her friend, Rachael Bostian, 29, was charged with the same offenses.

In 2015, Middletown passed a Chronic Nuisance Ordinance that states property owners who receive three nuisance activities or two drug-related charges at the same location will be billed the cost of the public safety responses by the city.

Shelby Quinlivan, spokesperson for the city, said “significant public safety resources” can be strained with a nuisance property, and the city and police have been working with property owners, landlords and residents to find solutions.

In recent years, five Middletown businesses have either closed or been demolished after they were declared nuisances. Miller’s Lounge on Charles Street, Bar Boca on Charles Street, B&R Cafe on Crawford Street, and the VFW on Young Street were closed by the city and after being under investigation, the Grand Illusion bar on Grand Avenue, was sold, then demolished.

One year ago, after the city purchased Bar Boca, 124 Charles St., one of its nuisance properties, the building was demolished. City Manager Doug Adkins told council at the time that purchasing the bar was not a tool he would recommend using often.

“This building has no good use,” he said.

Council spent $35,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds to alleviate the nuisance.

Adkins said the city will save thousands of dollars in the long run because police no longer will be called to that address. Residents in the neighborhood also signed petitions to get rid of the bar because of all the problems that occurred there.

City officials said the costs to send police officers there for calls for service or to investigate a crime took away resources from the rest of the city. Depending on the type of call, it could require multiple officers to respond. During one potentially dangerous call, all six officers patrolling the city responded to Bar Boca.

Officials said if there is an injury and medics are called, that only increases the costs in terms of personnel, vehicle and other costs.

In recent years, the Hamilton Police Department has shuttered one business: the former J&J Bar on Third Street. That bar was padlocked in February 2016 by police after an injunction was obtained in Butler County Common Pleas Court. The bar had been a hotbed of criminal activity and violence, including drug complaints, a shooting, a stabbing, and strippers, police said.

A Hamilton bar that was the site of a fatal shooting three years ago in Hamilton’s West Side has been closed and razed, but it did not take nuisance laws to make that happen. On July 24, 2016, a 22-year-old man was shot and killed in the lot of Doubles Bar, 1555 Main St. Seven others were wounded by gunfire.

Within hours of the shooting, police and city officials had contacted owners of the building.