Up To Speed

Housing Auction Saves Buildings In Baltimore

Housing Auction Saves Buildings In Baltimore

Often times it is difficult for distressed housing to be taken out of delinquent property owners hands. In Cincinnati this has often led to neglect and demolition of buildings, many of which are historic. Could Cincinnati learn from a program in Baltimore that puts delinquent properties up for auction? More from The Baltimore Sun:

The changes brought by Vacants to Value are creating enough sales volume to make the system financially viable, said board member Bill Romani, one of founders of One House at a Time, started by an attorney who bought his home through a receiver.

“You have a very hard time doing it at a volume to be able to make money doing it,” he said. “As the Vacants to Value program has grown and made more of an impact on neighborhoods, so has One House at a Time.”

Business Development News

$5M Mabley Place Project is First Phase of 4th & Race Transformation

Demolition and reconstruction of the old Tower Place Mall, now named Mabley Place, began December 16 with the installation of construction fencing around the perimeter of the old mall at Fourth and Race Streets.

Demolition of Pogue’s Garage, however, will not begin until the conversion of the mall is complete. Once the parking garage is removed, it will clear the way for construction of the 30-story apartment tower planned for the site.

Tower Place Mall, which was purchased by the city early last year for $8.5 million, came attached with the deteriorating eight-story Pogue’s Garage. Originally constructed to serve as parking for the namesake department store across the street at the intersection. The department store closed and was replaced by the mall in the 1980’s.

The mall building also supported its own parking expansion that currently is only accessible via a skybridge from the Pogue’s Garage. The parking spaces above the old mall will remain open during construction.

“The 525 parking spaces that currently exist above Tower Place Mall must be able to be accessible by other means prior to the demolition of the Pogue’s Garage. Right now, the only way to access those spaces is through Pogue’s, so the interior ramping at TPM must be completed first,” explained Stephen Dronen with the city’s Department of Trade and Development.

City officials expect the $5 million Mabley Place project to take six to nine months, and are optimistic that the parking structure will open by June. In addition to the parking, the project will include 8,400 square feet of street-level retail. One retail space has already been leased.

From there, developers of the Pogue’s Garage site can begin the laborious task of taking down the parking structure.

Due to its close proximity to other buildings, and the fact that it does not have a basement, engineers say that the garage cannot be imploded and must rather be demolished conventionally. The city estimates the demolition will take about four months and should begin this summer.

Flaherty & Collins is the lead developer on the new 300-unit apartment tower that will also include 1,000 parking spaces and 16,000 square feet for an independent upscale grocery store.

Construction is expected to commence immediately following the demolition of the garage, with the potential for a tiered opening of the garage prior to the residential tower above. Under such a model, the grocery store and parking garage components could open in early 2016, while the high-rise residential tower would open near the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017.

Although the redevelopment project was originally planned to be funded through the long-term lease of the city’s parking assets, the deal evolved to no longer require funding from the now cancelled lease. As a result, the project is being funded private financing and a $12 million forgivable loan that, city officials say, is contingent on the satisfactory completion of the project and completion and operation of a first-class grocery store on the ground retail floor of the project for at least five years.

Photographs by Elizabeth Schmidt for UrbanCincy.

Up To Speed

Port Authority to focus new land banking powers on demolition

Port Authority to focus new land banking powers on demolition.

The Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority is moving forward with its new land bank program. Instead of focusing on existing undeveloped land, however, the Port Authority has decided to partner with Ohio attorney general Mike DeWine (R) to launch a $11.1 million demolition and redevelopment program which will focus those efforts in 14 communities throughout Cincinnati. More from the Cincinnati Enquirer:

The Port Authority-managed land bank, officially known as the Hamilton County Land Reutilization Corp., is overseeing distribution and use of the funds. The Port Authority is finalizing its demolition contract this week, and had hoped to start demolition in July, but needed more time to work with city, county and neighborhood councils and development groups to develop a strategy.

The selected neighborhoods were based on the number foreclosures, abandoned and blighted properties – there are 2,394 vacated residential properties in the city alone – and whether an individual community pledged funds to be matched through the state’s demolition grant program.

Development News Opinion

Mercer Commons: A history of 1314 Vine

Seth Schott writes and runs OTR Matters, a blog centered on the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. For more OTR-centric musings, check out the Over-the-Rhine blog, as well as OTR Matters on Facebook and Twitter.

Yesterday, OTR-resident and blogger CityKin wrote a post about 1314 Vine Street titled “Does this building stay or go“. The thoughts and its comments are an informative read and a good introduction to the subject of this post.

1314 Vine Street; photo credit: CityKin

The current Mercer Commons plan

The time is now to discuss the fate of 1314 Vine Street and the current design of the planned Mercer Commons development by the public-private Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC) in the Gateway Quarter.

Mercer Commons is a planned development of new construction urban infill and historic restorations in the area surrounding Mercer Street in Over-the-Rhine. The development is bounded by Vine Street to the west, Walnut Street to the east, 14th Street to the north and the northern half of the 1300 blocks of Vine and Walnut Streets. It is an exciting opportunity to turn another corner (excuse the cliché) in OTR’s revitalization.

Footprint of Mercer Commons showing position of 1314 Vine Street in yellow box

In the footprint rendering above, one can see the position of 1314 Vine Street highlighted by the yellow square. If you look closely, you can see the driveway entrance to the parking garage (gray boxes in the middle of that block) lines up directly with 1314 Vine Street.

Other renderings (perhaps older or newer?) shows the following:

Mercer Commons looking east with Vine Street in foreground. Fate of 1314 Vine Street unknown.

It appears that 3CDC is not planning to save 1314 Vine Street, despite that the building has a historic facade and unique and beautiful stone cornice.

The History of 1314 Vine Street

According to the Hamilton County Auditor’s website, 1314 Vine St. was built in 1880 though the date is probably a best guess. The property was transferred from Cincinnati Public Schools to OTR Holdings Inc, a subsidiary of 3CDC, on August 11, 2008. It is a two story structure with what appears to be a cast iron storefront and a beautiful cornice. The original brick exterior has been covered in Dryvit or stucco and painted an odious shade of mauve, which apparently manifested itself during the structures days as a dance club in the recent past. The current configuration of front windows is not original as will be explained later with an examination of the 1904 Sanborn insurance maps.

The peaked roof is topped by raised glass skylights that run the length of the building, see image from Bing Maps below.


The Sanborn Map Company’s insurance maps of Cincinnati from 1904 show this building. They reveal some interesting facts:

Overview of the east side of the 1300 block of Vine and the west side of the 1300 block of Walnut
A closer view
1314 Vine Street according to 1904 Sanborn Insurance Map with illustration of raised glass roof

In the last Sanborn Map image, you can see the bay windows on the front of the building facing Vine Street. The inclusion of the “CITY MISSION” label is puzzling, but may point some ardent historian toward another chapter of this building’s history.

In 1919, volume 31 of The Machinists’ Monthly Journal, Official Organ of the International Association of Machinists shows 1314 Vine Street as the “District Lodge of the Grand Lodge of the International Association of Machinists”.

The issues

There are two issues at play in the fate of 1314 Vine Street. The first is the fate of the building itself at 1314 Vine Street. The second issue is larger and concerns the role historic preservation plays in the redevelopment of Over-the-Rhine. How important is each stitch in OTR’s historic fabric? It’d be enlightening to hear the opinions on these issues from 3CDC, the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, the Cincinnati Preservation Association, individual citizens, and others.

3CDC is to be lauded for its successes, and Mercer Commons could be a true triumph for OTR. However, if 3CDC chooses to demolish 1314 Vine Street by way of a “special exemption“, it will become in no small measure, but a part of the problem it purportedly seeks to remedy. Determining the fate of 1314 Vine Street would be better addressed sooner rather than later.


Editor’s note: The Enquirer posted an article delving into more detail about the project, which is an interesting read. There seem to be two sides to the argument: one – every historic building is worth saving, and as much as possible should be done to preserve the fabric, no matter the cost. two – sometimes sacrifices need to be made.

The National Historic Registry has been contacted – I’m interested in finding out exactly what it means for OTR’s historic registry status with continued property demolitions and whether or not more demolitions truly threaten the status. Will update with more information as it is received.

So, Mercer Commons: an unacceptable demolition or a necessary evil for the greater good of the neighborhood? We welcome your thoughts.

Development News

Potential Corryville demolition up for Livable Communities hearing

An entire city block of historic architecture is up for rezoning and demolition, and will be debated at a City Council Livable Communities hearing this afternoon at City Hall.

Student housing conglomerate Uptown Properties has proposed a new 72-unit student housing project in the Corryville neighborhood, located on the east side of University of Cincinnati’s campus. This comes on the heels of the 120-unit 65 West student apartment complex being constructed on the former Friar’s Club location at the corner of Ohio and McMillan Streets in Clifton Heights. At first glance, the proposal seems feasible, but in order for the project to be completed, the block of 7 historic properties on Euclid Avenue would be razed to the ground.

Many community members and preservationists feel that removing the structures would be a short sighted move for a city that is so rapidly losing its historic urban fabric due to demolishing buildings instead of restoring them. The Corryville neighborhood has lost over half its housing stock to expansions from the local hospitals and the University of Cincinnati.

Danny Klingler, director of preservationist organization OTR A.D.O.P.T., sees no benefit to destroying the properties. “It’s one thing to do blight removal with properties that are condemned or ordered to be vacant, or have problems with lead,” Klingler said. “We have over 250 buildings in OTR that are like that. With these [buildings on Euclid,] though, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them – you could go live in them right now, they are beautiful on the inside. You wipe them out and you lose something that makes Cincinnati unique. Not only that, but you replace it with cookie-cutter Uptown Rental properties that are less affordable.”

The current buildings are single family homes all built around the same time during the late 19th century in a Victorian style. According to residents, the block is one of the most beautiful and well preserved examples of Victorian architecture in the community. Uptown Properties has a history of converting historic buildings into student housing, yet its more recent projects have a bland, “value-engineered” look to them.

Neil Clingerman, a recent University of Cincinnati grad and former Cincinnati resident, has helped to virtually lead the charge in bringing attention to the potential demolitions.

“I used to live in Cincinnati, but after so many demolitions of historic structures, I felt it had no future,” explained Clingerman. “As a young guy looking to enter the professional world I wanted to be in a place that was alive and was willing to support the urban lifestyle I was looking for. As a result, I left Cincinnati after graduation, and moved to Chicago where I live in a neighborhood that approximates Corryville in era and style, and on top of this is full of activity and is a part of the city that is growing. Corryville can do the same, but it has to realize just how wonderful the buildings it has are, and how this can be used as a catalyst to promote population growth beyond transient students.”

Experts have estimated the new construction could cost potential renters up to twice as much for rent costs, which will drive out low income and student renters who are already struggling with tuition costs. The PLAN Cincinnati Housing Market Study document that current Council members should be familiar with outlines the situation for renters in the area: “The city’s renters experienced a loss of purchasing power during the past decade, as the median rent rose while their incomes declined. In addition, the city lost 7,847 assisted units (vouchers and public housing properties) between 2000 and 2010, making very affordable rentals even more difficult to find.” This information makes tearing down good buildings in order to build more expensive ones with less character hard to justify.

“Corryville has seen a large destruction of its historic building stock for decades. No longer can we accept these demolitions in this distinct neighborhood,” said Charles Marxen, Sustainability Advocate and student at the University of Cincinnati. “This block of Euclid Avenue is one of the most intact streets in the neighborhood, and its loss would provide little hope for buildings enduring the same struggle in the future. Uptown is a very unique area that cannot be recreated. Replacing it with what Uptown Rental Properties is proposing would be a devastating loss to the city’s rich history.”

The Livable Communities committee of City Council will be meeting today in the council chambers of City Hall at 801 Plum Street in room 300. The meeting is from 2pm-5pm, but the item is second on the agenda and will more than likely be addressed around 2.30 pm.

Community members are encouraging those interested to show their support by attending the meeting or writing an email in support of saving the properties to City Council members.

Euclid Avenue photograph provided by Danny Klingler.