PHOTOS: Historic Glencoe-Auburn Place Row Houses are Being Demolished

After more than a decade of failed redevelopment plans demolition of the 129-year-old Glencoe-Auburn Place Row Houses began on March 19.

Known colloquially as “The Hole” for its dramatic hillside setting in historic Mt. Auburn, the multi-building complex abuts Christ Hospital and has long been eyed in its expansion plans. The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2003, at the request of architect Tom Hefley and developer Pauline Van der Haer.

Christ Hospital Expansion
This aerial photograph from September 2012 shows both the Christ Hospital Expansion [CENTER-LEFT] and the historic “Glencoe Hole” [MIDDLE RIGHT]. Image provided.

Van der Hear, through her development company named Dorian Development, planned to renovate the complex into 68 market-rate condominiums during the early 2000s housing bubble. The “Condos Available” sign, still visible after today’s demolition work, has been in place since at least 2004, when the project was featured prominently in Cincinnati Magazine.

The large-scale modification of the old buildings (the original apartment units all have three very small floors connected by unusually narrow staircases) and the need for a multi-deck parking garage made the creation of a viable project impossible without large subsidies from the City of Cincinnati. Since the early 2000s Van der Hear has been involved in several high profile attempts to win awards from the City.

COAST attacked the project in 2008 after it received a $300,000 grant from the city, but in 2009 Christ Hospital took advantage of the collapse of the condo market and moved to acquire the complex from Dorian Development. Van der Haer sued Christ Hospital in 2011, claiming “tortious, deliberate, intentional and malicious interference” in her development plans, but the Ohio Supreme Court and an appellate court ruled in the hospital’s favor, citing the lack of a written contract between the City and Dorian Development.

The arrival of bulldozers adds to a growing list of historic properties uptown that have faced similar fates in recent years as a surge of private investment has moved in to construct hundreds of new residences and hundreds of thousands of square feet of new commercial space.

The following 12 images were all taken by Jake Mecklenborg at the site on Tuesday, March 19 – just five days after a demolition permit had been granted.

  • Would Christ develop this land in ways that are not directly part of the hospital or medical in some way? Would they become property investors/developers as UC has done?

    • I doubt it. The general thought is that they’ll use the site for a parking deck, but who knows…maybe they have something else up their sleeve.

    • A massive parking deck is a surefire way to effectively shit on a neighborhood. They already have one looming over lower Mt. Auburn, above Rice and Winkler Streets.

    • Hospital’s are pretty narrow-minded when it comes to development, there’s enough profit in what they’re doing via Medicaid that they don’t need to be developers or landlords. What would be better is a housing incentive program where they encourage their employees to live in the city. Then you’d at least indirectly preserve some buildings and add to the tax base.

    • I wanted to see Glencoe-Auburn rehabbed as workforce housing since the early 2000s, when it was shuttered. So shortsighted of them, all the while. Sigh.

  • Way to go Christ Hospital, you’ve destroyed the entire neighborhood! The fact that there was no oversight here is downright criminal!

    • The City of Cincinnati did issue a demolition permit, so there was some element of oversight. But it is very sad to see these structures go. There probably wasn’t much of an economic case to make for them due to their poor accessibility, but could you imagine how valuable this site would have become had the MetroMoves passed in 2002 and they constructed the Mt. Auburn Tunnel with a subway station nearby? That would have been a game changer.

    • Agreed that MetroMoves would have helped. Still I feel this demo is extremely short sighted, eventually this area would be ripe for redevelopment as gentrification marches further north. The sad thing is, it would have been a long way off.

      Still I do feel that Cincinnati should put preservation as more of a priority, or at least stabilization over demolition – I feel that the city is on the verge of a mass push of people heading back to the city and should be prepared to leverage this change in living habits to its fullest with its unique built environment. Enough instances like these happen and there will be no more unique environment left.

    • The city has too much building stock in disrepair and too few resources to manage it all, so it’s natural that many properties that should be saved will end up falling through the cracks. The real solution isn’t more resources to police them better and stabilize the entire city; it is to empower new small time developers with guidance through their processes and financial backing to get their projects off the ground. We need more people actually on the ground getting their hands dirty to make something happen if we ever want to get over the hump.

    • If only there was the ability to replicate 3CDC in other strategic parts of the city. The port authority has the right idea in theory, but are focusing on the wrong area. 1930s version of contemporary suburbia aren’t going to sell to today’s audience that wants to live in cities…

      I wish they were more focused on the pre 1900 parts of the city.

    • charles ross

      Development (gentrification is really when you convert warehouses to lofts or pimp out workmen’s housing, not when you restore derelict middle/upper class housing) is also pushing south from UC, and it’s very close to the Hole. The Glencoe site is adjacent to Inwood Park, which is one block downhill from the Mad Frog. Close enuff? TCH may have wanted to act before any of the UC expansion development wave caught on to the opportunity.

    • There was no one there.

    • That’s also tragic, in any other city a neighborhood with Lower Price Hills Housing stock and proximity to downtown would be hot property. 🙁

    • charles ross

      The previous developer is not blameless. They bobbled this project and have also left a few properties on the Sycamore hill that are blighted, including the distinctive flatiron building at the Sycamore/Auburn gateway corner, which is now a nuisance property.

    • charles ross
    • This wasn’t Christ, it was a division of W&S.

    • We don’t know yet. We do know that Christ Hospital tried to purchase the property in the past, and has expressed interest in the site.

      Eagle Realty, Western & Southern’s real estate arm, doesn’t build stuff for themself…they do real estate development. The only exception for something like this would be if they were buying and demolishing the site in preparations to build their own offices there.

      I suspect that’s not the case and that they are working with someone else to clear this site for another project. The only two projects that have recently been discussed for this site is the one that fell through that would have renovated the site, and then the one that Christ Hospital made an attempt at.

    • lisa

      Really!? I don’t think Christ had anything to do with the neighborhood going down hill! More like the people that lived there!!!

  • These are Really Sad to see being Demolished, I’m afraid it was Inevitable… My Mother said they were built by a Wealthy Individual who was “Not Welcomed on Auburn Avenue”, He wasn’t Those type of People! So he built his Townhome, the on with a Stone Front, and room for all of his Kind of People! Very Sad to see them torn down….

  • charles ross

    The “Historic Mount Auburn” community council’s newsletter is produced under the patronage of The Christ Hospital. TCH long ago bought up several of the historic houses along Auburn ave., and plenty of other adjacent properties, many of those historic as well. Quite a few are now gone.

    If you own an officially historic property, just let it “soak” a few years and nature (accelerate w/low rent tenants) will tenderize it for you, and then a demo permit is easy to get. Brick’s slower than wood, but it still works.

    An interesting plaque in front of the Taft national site displays a lot of the old homes along Auburn along with their arch. styles and in many cases, dates of demolition. One of interest is the Addy house, gone since the 60’s. Matthew Addy founded the company town of Addyston. A faux gothic Catholic church is now built there. The Riddle house (same Riddle as Riddle road) sits unsold for several years at the very crest of Mt Auburn. Go up and check out the view from the front steps there.

    • Giuliana S

      I lived at 2301 Auburn 1975-77 while in grad school and had a poster of all those old homes. Very sorry to see 2300 Auburn is gone. Italiante, of course, it featured a rounded bay where the windows had curved glass. 2301 is at the corner of Glencoe and Auburn. It was vacant and scary at the time, but when my brother came to town we poked around there, Deronda Ct, and Valencia Street. Coming from Berea, OH, west of Cleveland and relatively flat, the hills of Cincinnati and how they defined neighborhoods fascinated me. Here and there a street would just turn into stairs.

      Looking at Google satellite views I am sorry to see, too, how much surface parking there is around Mc Millan Street. Does Cincinnati really not know what it has going for it? To give up its heritage—for parking?

    • charles ross

      On the positive side, 2301 is slated for an upgrade by Uptown Rentals. There’s a story in Business Courier

      Around the corner on the other hand, they are bulldozing a whole block along Taft.

  • charles ross

    wow, so it’s Eagle Realty, the folks who brought us the great american tower? very inneresting….

  • This is downright tragic. I just drove by their the other day and noticed the demolition. It was the first I had heard of this. Just a few years ago I volunteered with Give Back Cincinnati to clean up the place, and I have been mesmerized by it since.

    A lot of people are to blame for this. Let me take my two shots. 1) Society is to blame for this. There truly is not much appreciation by the general public for history in this city. I can’t fault Pauline Van der Haer though. She had an appreciation for this neighborhood, and a vision, unfortunately she just got in way over her head, and needed to rely on the city for funding. Her actions were questionable, but I believe her intentions were good. Which brings me to my next shot.

    2) This cities reliance on the automobile is maddening, and much to blame for the demolition of this complex. It had been mentioned that this redevelopment could not happen without the construction of a parking garage, which the city was to fund. Because for some reason people who move into/near the city still feel the need to have their 3 over sized SUV’s clogging up the streets. When the city pulled their support of this redevelopment the project was considered dead without the garage. Yet for nearly 100 years this neighborhood survived without a big ugly concrete garage.

    I love this city, but its backwards thinking drives me nuts. Thankfully many forward thinking folks have documented this neighborhood through many photographs and writings. RIP Glencoe Place.