Rate of tower construction accelerated in Cincinnati in the 1960s

While 1960 to 1990 is often thought of as a low point for the architecture, planning and engineering professions for a variety of reasons, it turns out it was also one of the more active time periods in terms of construction.

Cincinnati is well known for being an old-growth city that acquired its urban form either during the 1800s or early 20th century. But the central business district that defines the city’s skyline, and thus the region’s national and international image, was largely built during that time frame.

While researching contemporary boom periods in Cincinnati, UrbanCincy dove a little deeper into the data and broke down the construction trends for buildings over 100 feet (8-10 floors) in height. While much growth occurred during the 1800s, only three structures over 100 feet were constructed during that century – Roebling Suspension Bridge, City Hall and the Shillito Building.

There was an initial surge in construction of buildings with this minimum height from 1900 to 1929 which included the construction of 35 such structures. There was then a lull from 1930 to 1959 as global wars took their toll on domestic building projects. Cincinnati then went on a three-decade surge of high-rise construction that included 61 new towers at least 100 feet in height.

Since 1990, the trend has been fairly steady with an average of eight new towers being constructed each decade. While analyzing contemporary patterns, it appeared as if Cincinnati was on a trend to exceed that average set by the past 30 years.

The region is barely into the next decade, but two towers of more than 100 feet have already been completed including the city’s new tallest tower. There are also plans on the books to construct another six towers (TBD Hotel at The Banks, Office Tower at The Banks, dunnhumbyUSA Tower, Christ Hospital Research Tower, Children’s Hospital Research Tower, Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites) in the near future.

Additionally, there is a strong likelihood for more tower construction through other lingering development plans (SouthShore 2, Hotel at Horseshoe Casino, Ovation, One River Place).

Tower construction in this decade may indeed surpass recent averages, but the large share of new construction in Cincinnati is actually made up of low- to mid-rise structures. What do you think…has the trend towards skyscrapers begun to wear off in favor of more human-scale development?

  • Ian

    Yes, I think the trend is definitely toward human-scale development. I’m clearly in the camp that believes this is a good idea, but on the flip-side I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say that the 1960s-90s is generally considered a low point for all the professions you’ve named, particularly engineering.

  • 14thatBremen

    I’m all for human scale development! Anything over the Queen City Tower…   I’ve tried to like that thing but it is so ugly and looks like something out of 1987.  I just can’t grow to like it. 

  • subocincy

    From what I’ve garnered, reviewing several other urban forums, not many people like the Queen City Tower.  (1) It looks like yesteryear’s leftovers  (1987, yes); (2) It’s short & squat instead of tall & lean; (3) Its tiara borders on kitsch; and (4) It could/would/should have been “a contender” (read in: “a Cleveland Buster”).  It ain’t.  Speaking of juicy rumors floating about–is there any possibility that either 5/3 Bank, P & G, or Kroger just might erect a “chart-topper?  (just askin’)

    • The only new “chart-topper” that I have heard of would be for Western & Southern, and would probably be built where that old parking garage is now that has the rotating digital clock on top of it. Outside of that, there are juicy rumors about a handful of towers between 10-20 floors…most of which will probably not happen.

  • RyanLammi

    An interesting thing to note is that Crosley Tower, Scioto Hall, Morgens Hall, Calhoun Hall, Siddal Hall, and Sawyer Hall at UC were all built in the 1960’s. Meanwhile, in the 1970’s, Sander’s Hall is the only one I can think of that was built on campus. Ignoring the building on UC’s campus, it appears that 20 buildings were constructed in the 1960s and 14 were constructed in the 1970s over 100 feet.

    Also, does this graph take into account the buildings that were torn down too? I don’t notice any dips in the graph from total + construction to Total of the following decade. For example: Sander’s hall was built in 1971, but was demolished in 1991. I don’t see the total building drop after the 1991 demolition. Or is the light blue the net increase in buildings over 100 feet?

    • This chart only accounts for newly added buildings…not net increase or decrease. I did track the number of demolitions per decade, but the number is nominal. Most demolitions just are not tearing down towers over 100′ in height.

      The decade that had the most number of towers at least 100′ demolished was 1900-1909 which had four. The following two decades saw three demolitions each.

  • Logan Beare

    I don’t ever comment here, but I think human-scale development is currently trending in the Queen City. But is it a good thing? Skyscrapers are a part of Americana, the thought of towers of concert and steel stretching into the sky captures (or used to) our imagination. It is a sad time to think no one is shooting for the next contender, but settle for average. 

  • I think, Randy, that I’d disagree with your apparent intimation that skyscrapers do not qualify as buildings that can be scaled to humans.  So much depends upon the design, especially at eye level, as well as how the public can access lower-level space.  I believe the Carew Tower/Netherland Hotel and the Westin Hotel/U.S. Bank complexes are distinctive achievements in this regard.

    I’m also one who is unimpressed with the Great American Tower/Queen City Square complex. The building was constructed cheaply, both in design and in materials. Moreover, you can consider me a throwback to another era when Nell Surber ruled over downtown development. I actually liked her vision of the skyline always pyramiding at Fountain Square, and of buildings eschewing glass in favor or masonry.  The problem as I see it with development downtown is that Western & Southern and the Williams’ family continue to control what happens.

  • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital has confirmed its plans for a 15-story research tower uptown. Construction will start this summer. Get all the details here: http://urbn.cc/p2ft.