Barr property to host homage to Mills house
- Published: November 14, 2013
In the early part of the 19th century, local settler William Mills was so active in routing the railroad through town and laying out the village, much of which he owned, that he was later dubbed “the Yellow Springs man.” Mills Lawn, where his historic house once stood, was named after him. And so will be the 28-room hotel that local family Jim, Libby and Katie Hammond plan to build on the Barr property just across from the school. They plan to call it Mills Park Hotel.
A conditional use request for the 1.6-acre property at the corner of Limestone and Xenia Avenue was approved by Village Planning Commission this past Monday. The change makes it possible for the property to be used for a hotel, restaurant and meeting space. If Village Zoning Commission approves a height variance at their meeting on Wednesday of this week, the Hammonds hope that the community will soon reap the benefits of having a new option for overnight guests, group events and a place for locals to hang out on the front porch and relax together.
After they purchased the Barr property from Friends Care Community last year the family began talking to villagers about a good use for the space. “Then we realized how big the property was, and we started brainstorming about a hotel,” Jim Hammond said in an interview last week. “We started talking about a banquet hall, retail store, a little restaurant … and it sort of got out of hand.”
But Roger Reynolds, a memberof the Chamber of Commerce board, thinks the hotel is exactly what Yellow Springs needs to host the many visitors the village turns away each month due to lack of overnight and conference accommodations. Including the bed and breakfast businesses the Morgan House, the Grinnell Mill, the Glen House and the Yellow Springs Inn, as well as the Springs Motel, the village offers a total of 25 rooms for overnight visitors. The hotel would about double the accommodations needed to support businesses such as Antioch College, Xylem and Enviroflight, as well as arts, wellness and other events that occur in the village all year round.
“The Chamber of Commerce strongly endorses it — this is good for merchants and other businesses and it’s a great potential venue for all kinds of events and retreats,” Reynolds said. “And it’s a local family making a local investment in the community and making their business successful.” Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt stated in a letter to Village Council last week that “the hotel will provide much needed temporary housing for campus visitors, families of our students and potential students, potential employees, alumni and guests at convocation, commencement, and other College events.” Likewise, Glen Courtright of Enviroflight wrote to Planning Commission about the desire to host business guests in the village proper and finding that “all the B and Bs are booked!”
Demand for the three guest rooms and reception area at the Grinnell Mill, which Hammond restored and now helps manage, has climbed over seven years to a steady 70 percent occupancy rate, and booking manager Randy Gifford often turns people away for weekend stays, weddings and other events due to overbooking. As much as Hammond loves the mill, he knows that the draw to a similarly historic hotel at the heart of town within walking distance of shops, arts, college events, the Glen and the bike path would be even greater.
“The main draw is the proximity to town,” he said. “To be able to get to all these place and not have to get back in your car — people will have a blast.”
The design of the three-story building was made to look like the historic Mills home with black slate mansard roof and white wood siding. The building stands at 36 feet and provides 24,000 square feet of floor space, including a small restaurant, retail space and banquet room on the first floor. There is a formal lawn on the east side of the structure for weddings and outdoor receptions. The parking lot to the rear of the lot will provide 80 spaces of permeable pavers, with a stormwater catchment system below the lot to prevent flooding, and possibly an underground cistern for watering the grass and shrubs.
Architect Ted Donnell presented the project to the planners as a rare opportunity to memorialize a village icon, whose property was often open to the public for use as a park, and whose home later housed the Antioch School and then a Village community center before being razed in 1966. He also reminded the planners that Hammond’s reputation as the restorer and now partial manager of the historic Grinnell Mill was completed with care and fidelity to the original structure.
“Jim Hammond does an exceptional job doing things the right way,” he said.
The operation of the hotel is slated to provide a possible nine to 16 additional full-time jobs to run the restaurant and the store and the weekend events, Hammond estimated. And Katie Hammond, who graduated from culinary school and is currently studying hospitality at Ohio State University hopes to coordinate the operation, with the help of the family and Gifford from the Mill.
The owners hope to begin construction on the property by June 2014 with a goal of being finished before Street Fair 2015.
Find architectural renderings and floor plans for the new Mills Park Hotel and more historical photos of the old Mills house online at ysnews.com