Business Development News Politics

Owners of Historic Dennison Hotel Ask City Hall for Demolition Permission

Information obtained by UrbanCincy through a public records request shows that Columbia REI, LLC has enlisted the legal assistance of Francis Barrett and Timothy Burke to get Historic Conservation Board approval for the demolition of the historic Dennison Hotel.

Built in 1890, the Dennison Hotel is located within the Main Street Historic District and has sat vacant for several years. In the past, the eight-story brick structure had served as a single-occupancy room hotel in what was at that time a seedy part of the central business district.

Over the past several months historic preservationists have been organizing themselves in an effort to track the status of this historic structure as rumors have swirled that the owners were interested in demolition.

The timing becomes all the more urgent with, according to documents filed with City Hall, the owners losing hundreds of thousands of dollars on the property each year, and with the Cincinnati Streetcar, which runs right in front of the property, poised to begin operation in the coming months.

In its application to City Hall, Columbia REI, LLC, which purchased the land from Columbia Oldsmobile Company in January, says that the real estate transaction is part of a larger effort to assemble and “protect” adjoining real estate that is being prepared for a “major redevelopment” that would be in line with the numerous other large-scale development projects taking place nearby.

As part of the demolition request, the owners were required to provide renovation cost estimates, along with the potential economic feasibility of legally permissible or likely uses. The report, completed by Beck Consulting in late February, provides evidence as to why a residential, office or hotel conversion would be challenging, but does not account or consider the possibility of any historic tax credits from the State of Ohio, or other incentives from the City of Cincinnati.

According to Beck Consulting’s report, supplemented by renovation cost estimates from HGC Construction, it would cost approximately $10.5 million to renovate the historic structure into a 60-room hotel with a street-level lobby and restaurant space, $7.9 million to turn it into a 52-unit apartment building, $8.7 million for a 35-unit condominium building, or $5 million to turn it into a 39,000-square-foot office building.

Over recent years, the State of Ohio has awarded tens of millions of dollars in tax credits to historic preservation projects such as this. Given the large-scale and potential economic impact of renovating the Dennison Hotel, it would seem likely that it would be well-positioned for such financial benefits.

According to the meeting schedule for Cincinnati’s Historic Conservation Board, the application should come up for a hearing on Monday, April 18. All meetings take place at 3pm in the Public Hearing Room on the fifth floor of Two Centennial Plaza at 805 Central Avenue.

EDITORIAL NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Historic Conservation Board would hear this item at their April 4 meeting. Due to the application being submitted on February 23, this item will actually be on the Historic Conservation Board’s April 18 meeting agenda.

Development News

Cincinnati Preservation Association Doles Out Awards For Local Preservation Excellence

The Cincinnati Preservation Association gathered earlier this month to honor the best projects and professionals when it comes to preserving the region’s historic building stock.

The 51st annual meeting was held on Sunday, November 8 at the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel, which is located inside the landmark Daniel Burnham tower at Fourth and Walnut Streets. The event itself was held inside the hotel’s stunning grand ballroom that had previously functioned as a banking hall.

Twelve awards were handed out to owners and developers of historic buildings throughout the region that CPA believes have substantially restored or rehabilitated those structures in accordance to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. Those projects include the following:

  • Archdiocesan Archives Renovation – Archdiocese of Cincinnati | Chameleon Architecture | Danis Building Construction
  • Beasley Place (Over-the-Rhine) – Over-the-Rhine Community Housing | CR Architecture + Design | HGC Construction
  • St. Michael the Archangel Parish Buildings (Lower Price Hill) – Education Matters | Brashear Bolton Architects | HGC Construction
  • 408 Overton Street (Newport) – Mansion Hill Properties
  • The Crown (Over-the-Rhine) – Crown Building LLC | Hampton Architects | Premier Tri-State Roofing
  • J.H. Rhodes House – Benjamin and Kristen Walters | Preservation Architecture Services Team | Benjamin Walters/Chris Holtman/Jeff Niemis/Joel Stafford
  • Taft’s Ale House (Over-the-Rhine) – Ale House Landlord | Drawing Department | HGC Construction
  • Chatfield College OTR Campus (Over-the-Rhine) – Chatfield College | Emersion DESIGN | Endeavor Construction
  • Clifton Library (Clifton) – Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County | McClorey and Savage | Motz Engineering
  • Probasco Fountain (Clifton) – City of Cincinnati | Clifton Town Meeting
  • Frida 602 (Covington) – Lucky Twins LLC | Don Biendenharn
  • Stonelick Covered Bridge – Clermont County | Smolen Engineering | The Righter Company

In addition to the project-related awards, two special education awards were also given out to those who, according to CPA, have produced quality programs, publications, inventories, or have promoted the awareness of historic preservation.

The first went to CPA volunteer Jeanne Rolfes, who was described as being one of the area’s most innovative volunteers when it comes to historic preservation. This recognition was largely due to her request of funds and subsequent development of a virtual tour for those who are too old or unable to participate in typical walking sessions about historic preservation.

CPA officials say that the program, called Cincinnati Memories, has been so successful since its launch in 2008 that it has been expanded twice and now brings in much needed revenue for the non-profit organization.

CPA awarded its prestigious President’s Award for Service to Preservation to architect Dave Zelman for his years of service and critical leadership roles in such efforts as the West Side Preservation Summit in 2010, annual spring home tours, River West Working Group, restoration of a National Register-listed Matthew McWilliams House on River Road, and assistance in saving landmarks like Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Sedamsville and an ancient stone house in Sayler Park.

Development News

Green Man Park to Transform Formerly Vacant Lot in Peeble’s Corner

If all goes according to plan, and Mother Nature plays nice this winter, Walnut Hills may have a brand new park in spring of 2015.

An empty lot at the corner of Stanton and McMillan (almost across from the new Fireside Pizza) is in the process of being turned into Green Man Park. Fred Orth, Walnut Hills Area Council member and neighborhood supporter extraordinaire, is spearheading the effort to not only make the lot into a public green space, but also to install a seven-foot tall sculpted stone “green man” for which the park is named.

The enormous sculpture was carved by David Hummel in 1890 for a Walnut Hills building, and ultimately watched over the area until that building was demolished in 1991. Prior to the demolition, the sculpture was rescued by a concerned citizen and has been sitting in pieces in the East End ever since.

Then, last weekend, neighborhood volunteers helped lay pavers for the new paths in the park. They used materials donated by the City of Cincinnati and equipment provided by HGC Construction. With a bit more work the park will contain several more trees, areas for seating, possibly a small performance spot, and one very large Green Man.

An ancient symbol of rebirth and the rejuvenation of spring, the Green Man seems an appropriate symbol for Walnut Hills’ fast-improving business district. Hopefully the sculpture will be there to witness another 100 years in the life of this great neighborhood.

Those who wish the support the community’s efforts to build out the rest of the park, which was previously a vacant lot, can do so by donating through the Greater Cincinnati Foundation.