Downtown Cincinnati and the adjacent areas continue to see both new development and redevelopment of existing structures. In an effort to bring broader awareness to the exciting projects occurring in the city, I snapped pictures throughout October showing the work taking place.
While these photos focus on projects in the center city, there are certainly many more exciting projects taking place throughout the city as its boom spreads outward. We’ll get to some of those projects in future updates.
EDITORIAL NOTE: This is the first of what we intend to be a regular monthly feature on UrbanCincy that will take a selected look at construction progress throughout the city. If you have any projects that you would like to have us visit and photograph, please let us know by emailing us at email@example.com.
The public will have another opportunity to weigh in on the proposed renovation of Ziegler Park on July 23. This will be the third in a series of meetings focusing on the renovation and potential expansion of the park, which is located at the northwest corner of Thirteenth and Sycamore streets.
The community input session will be held at the Woodward Theater, located at 1404 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine, at 5pm on Thursday.
The 1.4-acre park currently contains a pool, playground area, and shelter with picnic tables. To its east sits Cutter Playground and the former School for the Creative and Performing Arts building, which is being converted into a 142-apartment development called Alumni Lofts. Then, to the north, is a large parking lot, with a basketball court located just across Thirteenth Street to the south.
The latest proposal for the park was presented in late June at the launch of the Citizens for Cincinnati Parks levy campaign. The plan, said to cost $5 million, depicted the current Ziegler Park site renovated into a large, open lawn space, with the removal of the existing pool; and the parking lot to the north being removed and converted to an aquatics and play area.
A parking garage would be built under Cutter Playground, serving both the residents of Alumni Lofts and visitors to the park and surrounding area. Several enhancements along Sycamore Street would make it easier for pedestrians to cross between Ziegler Park and Cutter Playground.
According to the project team, which consists of the Cincinnati Park Board, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, City of Cincinnati, and 3CDC, the latest site plan will “maintain and expand park amenities while meeting the parking demands of the neighborhood.”
After gathering feedback, organizers say they will prepare a preliminary master plan that will be presented at a fourth community input session. From that, the final master plan will then be developed.
On Monday evening, the Pendleton Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to support Core Redevelopment’s $24 million Alumni Lofts project, provided the green space north of the former Woodward School/School for Creative and Performing Arts building remain undeveloped and available for public use.
The council’s letter of support asks that any development agreement between the City and the Indianapolis-based developer, or any future owners or assigns, include provisions that the Cutter Playground property be donated to a nonprofit or governmental entity and that development restrictions, such as a conservation easement, be included in the contract.
The developer’s current plans call for a two-level parking structure on part of the nearly three-acre site, leaving between 80-85% of the original green space intact.
Developer Michael Cox with Core said that he’s unsure whether the green space will be managed by his company or donated, but said that his company is committed to the community’s goals.
“We don’t know which one yet, simply because we haven’t worked through all of the deal structure and the timing of all of that,” he said. “It’s a pretty complicated project that we’re doing, but we are committing to the City in our project agreement with the City that we will do one of those things with the green space and it will be a green space in perpetuity.”
Alumni Lofts will consist of 142 market-rate apartments, ranging from 480 to 2,000 square feet and leasing for between $699 and $1,400 a month.
Still undergoing demolition and prep work, construction on the new units has been bid and is ready for permitting pending Council approval. A leasing office is planned to open in January or February, and Core expects to welcome its first tenants by July 1, 2016, Cox said.
The development agreement will be presented to City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee on June 8.
Under terms of the agreement, the project would receive indirect City assistance through a 30-year tax increment financing (TIF) rebate program, which Senior Community Development Analyst Adam Sickmiller said is “completely unique” for the region.
“From the developer’s perspective, it’s effectively a net 67.5% tax rebate,” he said. “So the developer will pay their taxes. Twenty-five percent will go to the schools, and 7.5% will go to the streetcar operating fund.”
The remainder would be returned to the developer, which will allow Core to receive a bigger bank loan to construct the parking structure, Sickmiller said.
“If the project performs better than expected, there will be a sharing of that revenue between the developer and the City,” he said. “Where specifically this money is going – and one of the reasons that we’re pretty excited about this – is that it’s going into an account that will specifically be used for public improvements, urban redevelopment, and public infrastructure, parks and the like.”
Opened in 1910 as the second Woodward High School, the 225,000-square-foot building has been vacant since 2010, when SCPA moved to its new $72 million building on Central Parkway.
Core Redevelopment purchased the former School for Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) in December 2012 for $1.3 million. The 107-year-old building was originally built as Woodward High School, and Core has been planning redevelop the property since their purchase.
Plans for the $23 million redevelopment have fluctuated since Core became involved. At first the concept was to develop apartments, but then the Indianapolis-based developer looked at transforming the building into a boutique hotel. The hotel concept moved so far along that Core was in final negotiations with AC Hotels in June 2013. At the time, it would have been one of the first in North America, but the deal later fell through and AC Hotels announced that they would enter the Cincinnati market at a lifestyle center in Liberty Township.
Located in Pendleton, SCPA has a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century when the original two-story Woodward High School was established there. At the time, it was heralded as the first public school west of the Alleghenies. SCPA started to take control of parts of the building in 1976, and eventually expanded into the entire structure in 1977.
“We will continue to honor William Woodward and Abigail Cutter by working with the William Woodward Museum to enhance the memorial located on the east side of the site,” stated Core.
The 4.6-acre site is bordered by Thirteenth Street to the south, Sycamore Street to the west, Fourteenth Street to the north and Broadway Street to the east. The historic school is situated on the south edge of the parcel and is currently surrounded by parking on three sides. The northern side of the block contains Cutter Playground, which in recent years has fallen into disuse and is viewed by many neighbors as an under-performing asset.
The park has served as the focal point of discussions regarding the redevelopment of the property. The developers have proposed a variety of concepts that would build varying amounts of parking on parts of the park. The most recent proposal, which is supported by many community members, includes a condensed parking footprint and a partially submerged two-level parking deck.
In addition to developing 148 new apartments and 196 parking spaces, Core plans to remove most all of the existing pavement currently in front of the building’s main entrance along Thirteenth Street. Small access lots would remain on the building’s east and west sides, and the two-level parking deck would be constructed on the rear of the existing five-story structure.
Rents for the apartments, which will run from 500 to 2,000 square feet, are expected to range from $700 to $1,500 per month.
“Maintaining as much of the open space as possible to the north of the building while enhancing the remaining open space through the use of landscaping is also one of our goals.”
The most recent revisions are currently making their way through the approval process at City Hall, but this rendition appears to have the best shot at getting approved. If all goes according to plan, Core intends to begin construction within the next two months and welcome the first residents in Spring 2016.