Work has started on a site for a new 28-room hotel, restaurant and banquet hall in the village of Yellow Springs. The project has a price tag of at least $4 million, but it’s not a standard big investment.
On a blustery afternoon in March, the owner of the future Mills Park Hotel is out chain-sawing—clearing up tree stumps from a big empty lot on Route 68 in downtown Yellow Springs.
“I’m a do-it-yourself kind of person,” says Jim Hammond, who is soft-spoken and covered in sawdust.
He says the project is paid for by local private investors including him and his family. As Antioch College gets back on its feet and the tourism industry grows, there’s a real lack of space for larger groups to stay in town.
“The idea we had with the hotel restaurant thing is gonna bring a lot of people to town, it’s gonna create 12 to 16 jobs right off the bat for locals, not to mention the locals that get to help build the thing,” he says.
“I think it’ll be a great positive impact just because of the size," says Yellow Springs Chamber of Commerce director Karen Wintrow. "We don’t have anything that large."
But this is also a big project that’s already changing the look of Yellow Springs—even the trees coming down have raised some concerns from residents.
Hammond says a lot of the trees were dead or dying, and the wood that could be salvaged will go into furniture and decor for the Victorian-style hotel lobby. He also says the zoning requirements included 81 parking spaces; between the three-story structure and the parking, there wasn’t much room left to keep the healthy trees.
“It’s better to just plant new ones after we’re done,” he says.
Hammond also has many personal connections to the village. His grandma and grandpa lived just three houses down from the lot, and he says his grandfather taught chemistry at Antioch and founded Drierite, Xenia-based company that makes drying agents for the chemical industry. He and his sister now co-own and operate the factory. Hammond was a key player in the effort to restore the historic Grinnell Mill and turn it into a non-profit, volunteer-run bed and breakfast.
The brand-new Mills Park will be modeled after an old building that used to belong to William Mills, who is also the namesake of Mills Lawn elementary school. His home, which was on the old site of the school, was a three-story Victorian long since torn-down; while the hotel won’t be an exact replica, it will imitate the mid-to-late-1800s style of the house and is named in honor of William Mills. Mills first financed the railroad through Yellow Springs and helped to build the town’s infrastructure.
Mills Park will have 28 guest rooms, including several extended-stay suites, a restaurant, a banquet hall and a conference room, all of which will significantly increase the capacity for Yellow Springs to host large groups of visitors, conferences and weddings. Right now visitors depend on two small bed and breakfasts or a motel on the edge of town, none of which have extra event space or restaurants attached. The plan for the site also includes 81 parking spots, two bike racks, and permeable pavement to prevent runoff. Hammond expects the rooms to go for $100-$125, about the same prices as the nearby Arthur Morgan House.