Cincinnati Preservation Collective Draws from Different Backgrounds to Save Buildings

Cincinnati Preservation Collective (CPC) is a new group of preservationists who are passionate about taking action to save historic buildings.

Founded in late 2013, CPC acts as an open forum for conversation around historic preservation. The group is made up of organizations and individuals bonded by a common passion: their love of historic structures and the belief that the benefits of saving these buildings often outweigh the costs.

“I think the word collective is important in the name because it indicates that we are a diverse group of people open to anybody which can hope to influence preservation in the city,” said co-founder John Blatchford in an email interview with UrbanCincy.

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Led by Blatchford and co-founder Diana Tisue, meetings are held about once a month, and at any given meeting you will find a mix of graduate students, architects, urban planners and former city employees, not to mention members of other preservation groups like Cincinnati Preservation Association and UC’s Preservation Action Network.

Though the group is relatively young, CPC has a lofty mission: to proactively save buildings. This year CPC says they are channeling their efforts around five “impact buildings” that have been chosen by the group and are either in danger of demolition, or are considered in need of awareness, stabilization or mediation.

CPC’s 2014 Impact Buildings
900 E. McMillan (The Paramount Building), Walnut Hills
2012-2014 Vine Street, Over-the-Rhine
1606-1608 Walnut Street, Over-the-Rhine
1706 Lang Street, Over-the-Rhine
1119-1123 Main Street (Davis Furniture Building), Over-the-Rhine

The group hopes to positively impact these buildings in 2014, whether it is simply by drawing attention to a neglected building or ultimately connecting the property with a buyer or a renovator.

“We understand that saving a building or respecting its history is not easy for a building owner, but we, as a group, have the knowledge and resources to help out,” Blatchford said. “The dream is that everybody would look for all alternatives to demolition first and that we could be a key resource to make that viable. We want demolition to be reserved for select and very extreme cases.”

While the group’s primary focus is centered around these five impact buildings, CPC says that they are looking to also build awareness for the organization and attract new members through regular meetings, educational events and fundraising.

So far the group has organized a handful of community outreach events. In February, for example, CPC deployed a guerilla-style “heart bombing” where they covered the impact buildings with valentines.

“We did that to bring up advocacy for the building and show that somebody loved it,” Tisue said. The group also had a float in Friday’s Bockfest Parade, complete with a Chinese Dragon-style goat and a New Orleans jazz band.

While the heart bombing and the Bockfest Parade aimed to get the word out about CPC, their next event will focus on connecting the community to other preservation projects.

This Thursday CPC will host a “Pitch Party” that will put 10 presenters on a stage to pitch their preservation-related project in five minutes or less. The best idea will be chosen by audience vote and the winner will receive $500 donated by the Cincinnati Preservation Association.

“Part of what CPC is doing is trying to build community and show that preservation and community go hand-in-hand,” Tisue explained. While $500 in seed funding can certainly get a project off the ground, they say that the primary goal of the Pitch Party is to share projects with an audience that is interested in getting involved with preservation.

“Pretty much any preservation project needs the manual labor and the volunteer hours from the community, but they also need support from the community,” Tisue said. “[Pitch Party] is a night of sharing projects with people and people with projects, connecting and building a bridge between community organizations and community.”

The Cincinnati Preservation Collective Pitch Party will take place on Thursday, March 13 at Venue 222. Doors open at 6pm and the event will begin at 7:30pm. Tickets are free but organizers do request those attending to RSVP through EventBrite.

Building illustrations by Derek Scacchetti.

  • EDG

    I really like this group and the approach they’re taking, but there is nothing apparently significant about the construction of the Davis Furniture building and it smells like it’s been open to water for some time. The most notable thing about it is the huge ghost sign, though I don’t not like the likely outcome essentially being the expansion of parking between two existing surface lots at Main St’s gateway.

    • Neil Clingerman

      Its very shameful that the owners of that building let it decay so badly instead of just selling it off. I’ve literally seen the building fall apart over the last 10 years and can clearly remember when it was an active furniture store.

      If it has to be demolished it should only be in service of being sold to 3CDC for a large “gateway” redevelopment that would include the surface lots by that place. However it would be wonderful if it could be actually preserved.

    • EDG

      Yeah, it really went downhill faster than most it seems. Preventing parking lots is a whole other issue that could easily be solved through taxation or zoning if the downtown boosters wanted to. How about small modern plazas at both Vine and Main at 12th instead of parking along the streetcar route?

    • Neil Clingerman

      I’d actually prefer both were infilled. OTR used to be one of the most urban neighborhoods in the county, it should celebrate that. Besides there is Ziegler Park, the bazillion parking lots own by Arnold S. Levine, and Washington Park which serve that function quite well.

    • Jake Mecklenborg

      I don’t think Davis Furniture is worth saving. The only thing interesting about it is the bowling ball advertisement. There is too much to gain from a big development combining it, the existing lots, and the Salvation Army property.

  • Two other items of note about this group:

    – A number of people in real estate (brokerage and development) are involved. The fact that the very people involved in building ownership are interested in preservation bodes well for the future of such endangered buildings.

    – The group has moved quickly on these 5 buildings. Davis Furniture’s demolition has been stayed for 6 months, and FreeStore has decided to sell 1606-08 Walnut to a re-developer. Talks are already starting on how to save Lang.

    • Matt Jacob

      It’s not just about saving buildings. It’s also about putting them back to productive use whether that is by the current owner or a new one. Actively looking for a solution to the current owner’s problem is how to get the things moving in a positive direction. The Pitch Party is a way to mine for creative solutions to make these and other buildings work again (and give a little seed money to get the ball rolling for one project).