University of Cincinnati to Demolish Former Sears Department Store Building This Summer

The University of Cincinnati (UC) has informed UrbanCincy that it will demolish its Campus Services Building at Reading Road and Lincoln Avenue. If finances are available, officials say that demolition will begin this summer.

Readers first brought the potential demolition of the 84-year-old structure to UrbanCincy’s attention in December. According to UC’s director of project management, Dale Beeler, the building has deteriorated significantly due to a lack of upkeep, and says that it is currently “crumbing around us.”

The conditions are so bad, in fact, that water has gotten into the wall system and fractured brick can occasionally be seen falling off the structure.

Campus Services Building
The former Sears Department Store in Avondale will soon meet the wrecking ball as the site is prepped for new development. Photograph by Jacob Fessler for UrbanCincy.

Originally a Sears Department store, the university had been using the structure for some information technology services, storage of excess furniture, some administrative functions and some other various non-student-related activities.

The path, to close and demolition of the facility, was cleared approximately three years ago when the University of Cincinnati purchased and renovated the Fishwick Warehouse, visible off I-75, in order to consolidate these kinds of services.

Located in Bond Hill, the newer, two-story warehouse is located on 10 total acres of property and allows the university to consolidate a variety of non-student functions and store other items outside.

Meanwhile, officials within the University of Cincinnati Office of Planning+Design+Construction estimate that the demolition of the Campus Services Building will cost around $1.5 million and will be put out to bid in the coming months.

With the decision already made to tear down the historic structure, the question then becomes what will happen with the soon-to-be prominent site adjacent to the $108 million MLK Interchange project.

“There is no real direction as to whether the university will try to sell it or hold it as a land bank,” Beeler explained. “But there are probably some hospitals on the hill here that are more interested in that property than we are. We think it will be a more appealing site once that building is gone.”

Officials believe that the improved access to the site, offered through the MLK Interchange project, will only improve the value of the land, thus making it even more appealing to another user.

Rumors in the local real estate community suggest that there is interest in the site becoming a medical research campus.

  • Eric Douglas

    If UC wants the real estate more than the building, just say that. This isn’t the first old building that’s dropped bricks because they haven’t been repointed.

    • I’m really tired of people expecting sympathy in response to this line: “The building is too far deteriorated, it would cost too much to rehab, we have no choice but to demolish it.”

      If you owned the building and were responsible for its maintenance, you are to blame for its poor condition. This goes for Christy’s & Lenhardt’s, the FreeStore Food Banks buildings on Walnut, Wilson Auditorium, and this former Sears building.

    • “We have to demolish the building because we didn’t bother maintaining it for so long.” It’s a transparently deliberate move, one UC and CPS employs all the time.

    • Eric Douglas

      Insulting explanation from a University that overspends on designer buildings

    • Robbie Runyon

      Oh, come on people, this is not really an issue. The main point here is that the building in question is obsolete and to linger onto something such as this particular building is ridiculous. The structure serves no purpose. It is in a location that makes that even more clear. If this building were in a location that a long term study showed would generate necessity, then preserve it. But since no one is willing to do that study and construction on the interchange is going to take place, this building must go. As far as conservation and rehabilitation, I am all for it but it must serve a greater good, not simply to save for the sake.

    • Neil Clingerman

      What are you talking about, this building is in a prime location esp when the interchange is done.

    • Robbie Runyon

      Ok, this particular structure is not in a prime location. It is not going to be studied and the interchange has made the preservation campaign undesirable. My main argument on this issue is about the building itself, it is not worth saving. Let’s say it was saved, this structure would have become a “Hope Diamond” among clusters of semiprecious baubles, not any construction close to it could have made this building not a white elephant in the end. The expense to taxpayers also intersects the question. Not a single dime should be forced from the public, therefore, in the end the execution of deconstruction is the better prospect.

    • I would agree that the introduction of the MLK Interchange makes this site more valuable, but I wouldn’t say it’s undesirable in its current state. It sits in a heavily traversed location and is along one of the busiest bus routes in the region. It also is a large site in an area of the region that is growing in terms of both jobs and population.

      We’ll see what happens here, but I could see the building being desirable to someone. If the desire is to turn it into a facility with more square footage, then there is probably little hope for the structure. Stay tuned…this story will only get more interesting.

    • Eric Douglas

      You’re argument that the context around the building is why it should be demo’d is not the justification UC gave in the article.

      UC spends far more than they should on buildings like the moneypit Eisenman DAAP building or the stadium expansion. To say preserving this building is not in the interest of the taxpayer is guesswork and ridiculous.

    • Eric Douglas

      Made no comment on the merits of preserving the building. More about transparency and the University’s role in off-campus real estate dealings.

      Your foresight comment is off topic. It’s likely that UC is doing the demo so that when the property is sold or leased to interchange development specialist Neyer, or whoever else, there’s no historic preservation hiccup.

    • Robbie Runyon

      I don’t agree. There is always an end to issues such as this and to say that foresight is off topic is not true. For the merits of preserving the building, I think it is something that is a current that connects the entire conversation. Wether or not the article is discussing the destruction, future use along with rehabilitation, or what UC sees as a future for a structure that is falling apart, trying to decide if they want to work with it or just give up on it, the main point is still historical, local and its potential viability, with respect to the neighborhood and the interchange. We have to say goodnight to what was once a lovely building but is now far past any help that can work to make it a desired edifice in the long term.

      Let’s discuss the interior for a moment. I have not been privileged enough to go inside but I am sure that there is as many intimate details as there is on the outside. It probably is potentially a fantastic space for something such as a large indoor open floored market. I will grant everyone that possibility, having said that, I still believe this structure is gone and deconstruction is the only acceptable end. With regret I agree with UC that the site holds

    • charles ross

      Schools, Hospitals in this town seem to have a pretty sorry record on this front. Hospitals in particular seem to become walled fortresses that degrade their neighborhood at large. Reminds me of the green zone in Iraq. Come to think of it, the Zoological Garden has retreated from its neighborhood decade by decade. Makes me want to think on what kind of citizens these big orgs are driven to be…

    • WRW

      “…the Zoological Garden has retreated from it’s neighborhood decade by decade.”
      What exactly do you mean by that? The zoo has and does try to work with the neighborhood kids 100% more than the other institutions near by. Physically the zoo is hardly retreating. West of Vine is the giant new parking lot. New lots on the southeast side of Vine. Since the end of 2012 there has been a tremendous property acquisition in the four blocks north of Children’s and east of the zoo including a few south of it . Whether it is Children’s, the zoo or a combination of both it is hard to tell – no one is talking. The guess is it will not be just these four blocks but the entire nine block “super block” of residential – bonded by Dury, Forest, Burnet and Erkenbrecher along with Shields and Louis.

  • Yellowrosetx

    This building is only having problems because of neglect, which in a building as well built as it is can be reversed, gutted and made into almost anything from an apartment building, office building, or retail space. The historical detailing on the building is magnificent and it should be saved. No one builds buildings like this anymore. Something smells fishy when UC has so much money to demolish these historically significant buildings, but needs to raise tuition from students because of lack of funds, this building should be saved and renovated.

    PS: Talking about dropping bricks – do they now plan to demolish the Baldwin Building on main campus for dropping large chunks of concrete from the ceiling?

  • Kevin Kastner

    Sad to see that this has not been as lucky as the similar old Sears in downtown Indy, which is now a Marsh Grocery.

    • Kevin Kastner

      Sorry, I’m new to Disqus, I just wanted to link to the Google Street View of this building, not show the aerial photo. If you are curious, you can go to Alabama and Vermont on Google Maps.

  • charles ross