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Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Hiland Building Set to Change Hands

Control of Building Switches Hands, Cash Infusion Imminent 
Dan Gorman in front of The Hiland Building at 18 N. Fort Thomas Avenue. 
The Towne Centre District has gone through an artistic Renaissance over the last few years. Twenty-three arts related businesses have lined Fort Thomas Avenue which now has Fort Thomas poised for an avalanche of economic development.

A major commercial real estate sale, which closed last week, could be the final snowflake to cause the onslaught of positive momentum to flood in.

Fort Thomas resident and owner of United Property Group, Dan Gorman, has a deal that would give Gorman full control of the Hiland Building at 18 N. Fort Thomas Avenue. The deal includes a master lease of the property, which gives Gorman and business partner, David Hosea, time to renovate the building so that the property will increase in value by increasing the occupancy.

"That will allow me to purchase the building in the future for the price the current owners want and when the tax burden won't be so high for them," said Gorman.

Gorman, who put the deal together, said that he had been in the process of trying to acquire the building for almost a year. The joint venture between Gorman and Hosea, which has yet to be completely finalized, is known as "Fort Thomas Properties-Hiland."

"I’m happy with the way the deal worked out. It is the best solution for the current issues involved. The past owners won’t be involved in the day-to-day, and the deal is going to give the building a much-needed cash infusion to update and bring new life in," said Gorman.  "(Hosea's) passion for helping the Central Business District and having expertise in areas I don’t will make the partnership work well."

"I’m almost 70-years old and theres a lot more that I’d like to get done in Fort Thomas," said Hosea. "When I started out in Newport revitalizing some of those properties, we tried doing the landmark properties first. If you don’t get the those properties right, the rest won’t fall into place."

The Hiland Theatre is certainly a landmark property in Fort Thomas. It was one of the first buildings in the main business district. It contained offices, a tea room, candy shop and a movie theatre. The theatre opened on August 3, 1927, and seated 750. The first show was Senorita, starring Bebe Daniels. It closed in March of 1979.
The Hiland Building. 
Gorman, who also sits on the Economic Development Board in Fort Thomas, said that he and Economic Director, Debbie Buckley have been discussing ways to continue to transform the district.

"This is not an property that I’d typically be involved with, but I felt it was really hurting the town by having (The Hiland) sit empty. Too many papered up windows," said Gorman. “I'm excited. My business has evolved by taking properties that need some help and trying to turn them around. I’m always searching for deals  with properties that need to be repositioned.”

Gorman has a history of turning commercial spaces around. He bought a shopping center in Hamilton, Ohio that had a 60% occupancy rate that now boasts a 95% rate.

Buckley is excited about the future of the Hiland Building as well. "That building is the cornerstone of Towne Centre. Dan has been on our Economic Development team so he understands the focus that the community has for the cultural arts district," she said. "He is a doer, not just a visionary. He sees projects through until they happen and I can’t tell you how appreciated I am for that because it makes my job so much easier."

The property has had some turnover over the last few years with the only two street-access storefronts being vacant. Smitty's Barbershop moved out in December of 2013 and most recently Jewels on the Avenue and Marshall Granger's Jewelers held space in the other street-access location. 

Of the slightly over 21,000 square feet for lease in the Hiland Building spread over four floors, only 27% is currently occupied. Dr. Bert Bathiany currently occupies the most space in the building. Anointed Touch Massage and Dirty Hairy's Dog Spa are among nine other businesses that call the Hiland Building home.
The Hiland Building today. 
While much of the building has been vacant for many years, according to Gorman the owners did a nice job of maintaining it. "It's in great shape and virtually nothing major has to be done. We will be able to concentrate on common areas and improving space to attract new tenants," said Gorman. "The two retail spaces are key locations in the center of town and we'd like to be patient and work with (Buckley) to find great tenants that will draw people to our Central Business District. We want tenants the town will support and are prepared to make a significant investment in the space to get that done."

Buckley, who has been employed by the city since 2006 said that she's thrilled with the progress of the district. "When I think back to what this district was like when I first came here and stood on front steps of the city building, all I saw was offices," she said. "I would go home every night and start envisioning, how are we going to transform this into into a thriving downtown? Now to think what we can do with that cornerstone property, The Hiland, I am just thrilled.” 


  1. I would love to see the Hiland return as a movie theater. Boutique theaters in Mariemont, Clifton, and most recently Kenwood seem to be great catalysts for new businesses adjoining the theaters and add more entertainment options for residents. The funny thing is that each one has a popular pizza place next to it -- providing folks with the option for dinner and a movie. Must be a symbiotic relationship. We have 15 North. We just need the theater.

    1. I agree - that would be incredible. I love the old theaters in Clifton and Mariemont and they have a lot of community support. Unfortunately, the building has gone from a single large theater with high ceilings to a multiple story office building with lower ceilings by adding a couple floors. It would be impossible to convert it back at this point. Thank you for the input though.

  2. Would love to see an indoor local farmer's market that included homemade breads. – Michele

  3. This is great news for our town! Thank you Dan & David for pursuing this opportunity that will continue to increase the attractiveness of Fort Thomas.