Downtown Springfield has seen a flurry of development in the last year, with new small businesses, luxury lofts and a brewery all opening their doors.
One of the most high-profile new developments is Hatch Artist Studios, where a $500,000 renovation is transforming the long-vacant Metallic Casket Company complex into studios for artists and small business owners.
Springfield artist and Turner Foundation creative director Rod Hatfield says the complex was chosen for renovation because of its central downtown location and its significance to the city.
"Our executive director John Landess had the vision to empower a culture of creativity [that] he believes will stimulate the local economy, and help inspire people to come back downtown to see how beautiful Springfield really is," Hatfield says.
The building that houses Hatch Artist Studios has an interesting history.
It was originally the Springfield Metallic Casket Company’s administrative offices. The company was founded in 1884 and eventually became the largest maker of burial vaults in the country. Notable people buried in Springfield Metallic Caskets include gangster Al Capone, President John F. Kennedy and Wild Bill Cody.
“Hatch is a fun metaphor for the rebirth of Springfield. Hatch is a play on what occurred here, which was burial vaults, so we are being reborn," says Hatfield.
Local artist and co-founder of the Holly and Tanager handbag company, Kathryn Traut, says she is excited for her business to be part of the Hatch downtown development.
"I use this space to produce samples for the handbags and do marketing work," she says. "It’s been fun being part of the culture down here."
Nearly two dozen artists and small businesses have already set up operations in the loft-like Hatch space.
Among them is Abbey Knight, owner of a Yellow Springs-based home decor store called OATS.
"So, it's Ohio Antique Trading," Knight says. "We basically came in here and painted over all the tags that were on the wall. Made it all white and kept the floors original. We designed it with a midcentury modern-slash-industrial theme."
The Turner Foundation's Hatfield says young entrepreneurs like Knight and Traut are bringing new creative energy - and economic activity - back to Springfield.
There are still a handful of studios available for rent in the building. Planners are hoping the Hatch Artist Studios project will continue to attract more artists and entrepreneurs to work and create downtown.