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Cincinnati: Over-the-Rhine: Washington Park

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Washington Park plan unveiled

 

 

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Developers looking to revitalize Music Hall area of Over-the-Rhine

 

By Ken Alltucker

The Cincinnati Enquirer

 

 

An ambitious plan that calls for an expanded Washington Park, two new schools and a new garage near Music Hall to revitalize Over-the-Rhine's housing, retail and cultural attractions was unveiled Tuesday.

 

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., a private development group, said a clean, safe park and good schools are sorely needed for the neighborhood's turnaround.

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A related story from the 6/15/04 Enquirer....

 

 

Plan's dilemma: Drop-Inn Center

By Ken Alltucker

The Cincinnati Enquirer

 

The private development group seeking to recharge Over-the-Rhine told Cincinnati City Council on Monday that relocating two schools and expanding Washington Park is critical to spurring new housing development in the blocks surrounding the park.

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Here's an update on at least something happening, albeit small.  From the 11/20/04 Cincinnati Post:

 

 

Washington Park's new hope

By Kevin Osborne

Post staff reporter

 

A private corporation formed at Mayor Charlie Luken's urging to boost development in Over-the-Rhine announced its first major project Friday, financed partially with city money.

 

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., or 3CDC, helped assemble a deal involving public and private financing to renovate two apartment buildings near Washington Park.

 

http://www.cincypost.com/2004/11/20/washpark112004.html

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Good news from the 2/11/05 Cincinnati Business Courier:

 

 

OTR park area set to bloom

Owner gets lots of interest in 40 parcels

Dan Monk and Lucy May

Courier Senior Staff Reporters

 

Tom Denhart, one of Over-the-Rhine's largest low-income landlords, is looking to sell dozens of properties near Music Hall, a move that could hasten the redevelopment of the blocks surrounding Washington Park.

 

Denhart said there is "a lot of interest" in the roughly 40 parcels he owns in a six-block area north of the troubled park, where civic and business leaders are charting major new investments aimed at sparking a wave of revitalization in the southwestern corner of Over-the-Rhine.

 

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2005/02/14/story1.html

 

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Plan could boost OTR occupancy

Lucy May and Dan Monk

Courier Staff Reporters

 

 

One of the largest property owners in the Washington Park area of Over-the-Rhine will present a plan to Cincinnati City Council Feb. 22 that calls for adding more than 500 new housing units to the neighborhood and tripling occupancy there.

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The plan would require the demolition of 14 buildings in the area north of Washington Park bound by Elm, Liberty and Race streets. It calls for partial, or "surgical," demolition of several more structures to make room for residential parking and semi-private garden courtyards
WTF!?

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I don't think so, because I'm pretty sure there aren't 14 wood frame or non-contributing infill structures in that area.  These will be beautiful old Itallianates they're demolishing.  And if that's the case, I'm gonna fight it HARD.  You simply cannot demolish FOURTEEN buildings in a historic district like it's nothing.  That would NEVER, EVER fly in Boston's Beacon HIll or Back Bay.  I like the plan and potential for investment, but I'm pissed about the demolition aspect.

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Here is info from the 3CDC website, which has actually been somewhat updated.

 

 

scpa3zb4.jpg

SCPA

* 250,000 - 300,000 square feet, 1350-1500 pupil K-12 school.

* 2.8 acre site offers greater presence at Central Parkway location and will serve as a Washington Park anchor.

* Completion expected 2008-2009.

 

 

washpkelemtd7.jpg

Washington Park Elementary

* 450 Pupil School.

* Fully funded.

* Predevelopment efforts underway.

 

 

musichallsquaretj1.jpg

Music Hall Square (I have no earthly idea what the hell this monstrosity is)

* Proposed site for an above ground 750 space parking garage, located directly south of Music Hall, bordered by Grant Street and Central Parkway.

* Project would include plaza on Elm Street, retail and/or office space.

* Design work with stake holders ongoing, conceptual design completed by June 2005.

* Plaza becomes focal point and will provide a sense of occasion that is eventful, an experience. (how?)

* Garage will serve Music Hall, Memorial Hall and new SCPA on Central Parkway.

 

 

Washington Park

* CPS's decision to build the new Washington Park Elementary School at 14th and Walnut Streets will allow a northward expansion of Washington Park. This will also allow a direct connection between the park and a revitalized residential community between 14th and Liberty Streets. The park expansion will create stunning new views of Music Hall. 3CDC has committed to work together with the Park Board and the community on master planning process.

 

http://www.3cdc.org/content.jsp?articleId=132

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From the 6/10/05 Enquirer:

 

Washington Park 'Rebirth'

 

The Washington Park Housing Corp. opened 37 newly remodeled low-income apartments in Over-the-Rhine Thursday as part of a $5.8 million project. Model Management, which developed and will manage the two buildings, touted the project as the beginning of a "rebirth of Washington Park." It's in the part of Over-the-Rhine that the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. is targeting for redevelopment.

 

http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050610/BIZ01/506100379/1076/rss01

 

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Of the 3 renderings in grasscat's post, only one does not leave me profoundly worried and disappointed.  The SCPA building at least makes an attempt to fit in with the architectural beauty of the neighborhood, while the parking garage and new Washington Park school will only detract from what makes OTR great in the first place.  I hope some serious design review kicks in before these things get built, although I don't have much confidence given the way the "Gateway" project has turned out.

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Well, I wish I had checked my emails sooner...Kendall or any others go to this meeting?? This better not happen...How can something like this happen in such a historic neighborhood?!

 

The OTR Foundation will hold a special meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, July 19 at 2:00 p.m. at the Foundation offices at 1317 Main Street to discuss the proposed demolition of 22 historic buildings in the vicinity of 14th & Walnut Streets in Over-the-Rhine. Cincinnati Public Schools has acquired the property from Eagle Realty and  proposes tearing down all the buildings to make room for a new neighborhood school. We need your help to stop a project that will tear the heart out of OTR.

 

By way of background, the Walnut Street school is being proposed as a replacement for Washington Park School. CPS originally planned to renovate Rothenberg School, one of the District's most architecturally significant buildings, but those plans appear to have been put on hold. To see a rendering of the proposed new school, visit www.3cdc.org <http://www.3cdc.org>  and click on "Washington Park Redevelopment Projects."

 

 

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A good freind of mine attended the meeting.  The gist of it is that Eagle realty has sold it's aquisitions on Walnut/Mercer for a tidy sum to the CPS.  Eagle also is getting first dibs on the old SCPA (old Woodward).  CPS is worried about dropping enrollment, and cannot build a new Washington Park School plus renovate Rothenberg.  Obviously, Rothenberg should be renovated, and the Walnut Street plan should be the one put on hold. 

 

The whole thing stinks!

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Hi jimmy, I'm glad your friend attended the meeting. I would rather the washington park school not be demolished than have a new school built on walnut or CPS should use the rothenberg school, they don't need to be wasting our tax dollars for this! 3CDC seems to be supporting the new location. :x

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This sounds like a major demolition effort...are there any graphics or maps showing what kind of impact this will have on the character of the neighborhood.... 

 

One of the things that makes OTR special is not the individual buildings but the dense urban ensemble, but also with a lot of variety to the buildings, too. 

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Unbelievable.  Just rebuild it where it is, or incorporate it into the SCPA.  I smell a rat, and I'm 200 miles away.  I can't believe the local media outlets aren't pounding on doors. 

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BTW...When I mentioned I had heard about it before, it was because I remembered the Washington Park thread.  They mentioned the new school a few months back, but at the time they were only planning on tearing down 14 buildings (about 14 too many).

 

In fact, I'm going to merge this thread with the Washington Park thread within a day or two.  I just thought I'd give all of you guys a heads up before I do it so you don't wonder where the heck your thread went.

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From the July 22, 2005 print edition

Assembling the pieces: 3CDC holding company quietly buying up properties near Washington Park

Lucy May

Senior Staff Reporter

 

 

A holding company for the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. has purchased more than 40 properties in Over-the-Rhine -- most near Washington Park, where city and business leaders want to focus revitalization efforts in the historic neighborhood.

 

http://www.bizjournals.com/cincinnati/stories/2005/07/25/story5.html

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If I recall right, the Music Hall/Washington Park area was  going to be the orginial focus for restoration/gentrification in OTR

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Please pardon the sarcasm in the following post...I don't wanna come across as some leftie anarchist, but this whole situation is making me sick with the realization of how power can lead to a completely ridiculous (and disastrous) development project...

 

Why is it that just as OTR is experiencing investment and perhaps turning the corner toward revitalization, a few outsiders with little respect for the neighborhood's architecture and history decide they're going to rip out a block?

 

Last Wednesday I became aware of and attended a meeting of local preservationists to discuss the Cincy School Board's plan to build a new Washington Park Elementary School in a block bounded by Vine, Walnut, 14th, and 13th.  Now for whatever reason, I didn't realize they were going to demolish 22, yes twenty two!, buildings in order to make room for the modern monstrosity (see http://www.3cdc.org/content.jsp?articleId=132).  But this is in fact the plan, and apparently the historic district status of the neighborhood is of no help in this case, because it is a public and not a private development, and schools take precedence over a neighborhood's historic fabric.

 

The school board acquired the property from Eagle Realty in November of last year (old news, I know) for $3.9 million, giving the real estate company a nice little windfall of $1.7 million (they acquired the property a year or two back for $2.2 million...although they claim, perhaps with justification, that they spent about $1.7 million for improvements, demo and such, and that they sold to CPS at cost).  The school board's original plan was never to build on this site, rather they are simply following 3CDC's Washington Park plan, and the causal chain runs something like this: a new garage needed to be built next to music hall, because, said Mr. Leeper, the Corbett garage across the street wasn't big enough, adding another level would be "cost prohibitive", and anyways, suburbanites can't be expected to walk across central pkwy after they park, for heaven's sakes! (see page 7 of this link for the transcript of Leeper's justification: http://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/cdap/downloads/cdap_pdf9139.pdf).  Placing the garage next to music hall meant that the new SCPA building had to change its proposed site (see http://www.moodynolan.com/project_info.asp?id=30&type=edu# for rendering of SCPA as it would have been next to Music Hall, incorporating the old Pipefitters building as a ticket office), so 3CDC suggested they move over to the surface lot on Central Pkwy and Elm.  This was all well and good, except that CPS had planned on using this exact site to build a new Washington Park Elementary.  So the question became, where would WP elementary go?  3CDC made some kind of assessment of various sitres in the neighborhood, and determined that it'd be best to plop the school down right in the heart of the neighborhood at a site with little vacant land.  Showing amazing autonomy, CPS deferred to 3CDC, accepting the plan and subsequently acquiring the sight for a mere $3.9 million.

 

So now we're left with the current situation.  22 buildings, many of them "contributing" (i.e. part of the historic building stock), are scheduled for demolition as soon as CPS can get its act together (their website lists construction as commencing spring of '05), and there's never been one bit of community input into this from preservationists, residents, investors, developers, etc. etc.  And it's all been catalyzed by 3CDC (don't get me wrong, I'm generally a fan of 3CDC, just not in this instance).  Things are made even more disturbing by the fact that neighborhood demographics are changing, school enrollment is dropping, and enrollment projections for the new school have already dropped from 600 to 450.  350 students are needed for a school to even stay open, so its not inconceivable to imagine a scenario where, 5 years down the road, we're left with an empty space station in the middle of the largest collection of Itallianate architecture in the U.S.  Moreover, there is a recently vacated old school building up at Main and McMicken -- the Rothenberg School building (http://www.cps-k12.org/general/facilities/schools/UpdatedProf/uRothenberg.pdf) -- that would cost less to renovate than it will to construct the new school, and would easily accommodate 450 students  CPS had already received permission from the Ohio School Facilities Board to renovate this building, but has since abandoned these plans and just shut the Rothenberg school down altogether.

 

The question now, is, what can be done?  As I said, a bunch of us are beginning to meet to figure out a way to fight this, and based on the first meeting my hunch is that there WILL be a fight if CPS tries to go through with this.  I'm making this post really to just raise awareness, and to enlist any avid OTR-ophiles to join the battle.  Any of you who have any ideas, information, or any of you who would like to attend the next meeting (wednesday at 2.pm. at the OTR foundation on Main) -- that would be awesome.

 

I wanted to provide pics of the threatened buildings, but don't feel like getting all the links from the auditor's website now.  Anyone with pics, please post.

 

Whew!...thanks for letting me rant.

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Thank you for your efforts at preserving Over-the-Rhine, dglenn.

 

I  just emailed the Board of Education urging them to reconsider their lackluster plan.  My hope is that they realize their mistake and sell the Walnut Street property.  The renovation of Rothenberg School makes so much sense...and it's only four blocks away!

 

Here is the Web page to contact the Board of Education:

http://www.cps-k12.org/Board/Board.htm

 

I urge everyone here to contact local leaders to protect and preserve Over-the-Rhine.

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I was totally shocked the first time I heard this... :x Count me in DGlenn I will let everyone know this side of the Rhine about this crazy situation! We have to fight this!

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I say let them do it.  EVERY building in OTR cannot be saved. New building and investment will help salvage what they can of the rest of the area.  IF you don't allow anything to change, then things will not move foward. OTR needs some drastic efforts to truly make in a hot spot of revitalization.  I see this as a new anchor to a decaying neighborhood.  Once the school is done, I think things will really start picking up and other buildings that are sitting in decay will have the investors willing to save them.

 

The one thing I know for sure it that this neighborhood cannot continue in its current state. 

 

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But they are going to tear down over  twenty structures in the heart of a residential street for an unnecessary project.

 

Right now, dozens of structures in Over-the-Rhine are under threat of demolition.  The vast majority of these historic buildings  could be saved and turned into unique loft condominiums.  That Walnut Street property was supposed to become Mercer Commons, a residential oasis in the heart of Over-the-Rhine.  Here are some examples of how it could look:

 

http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=1827.0

http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=327.0

http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=3859.0

 

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The shame of the proposal is multiple:

1.  The size of the lot left after demolition is not much bigger than the current site of Washington Park School, if you inclued the pool and playground.

 

2.  They propose to abondon 4 schools in OTR.  Two of these schools are historic beauties, and the other 2 are circa 1950.  All of those sites will be left to uncertain fates.

 

3.  The buildings were mostly occupied up to a year ago.

 

4.  Because of State guidelines (that are JUST guidlines, not mandatory) alot of surface parking is required around the new schools for buses, teacher and security.  This will ruin the center of the neighborhood. 

 

5.  As seen from the existing 4 schools in the neighborhood.  Having a school on a street does NOT encourage development.  In fact if it looks like a shopping mall dropped int he middle of OTR, it will definitely hurt development in the immediate area.

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Jimmy, you make a very good point about state guidelines for parking...

 

This was brought up at our last meeting, and it was noted that, even though they are just guidelines, CPS is pointing the finger at the state as the reason for the large amount of surface lot area that they have proposed next to the school.  Has anyone at CPS ever thought about the fact that this is a dense urban area that is highly walkable?  Does Beacon Hill in Boston have a giant surface lot (or ANY surface lot) anywhere in the neighborhood?? (rhetorical question)  What about the Back Bay?  Greenwhich Village?  etc. etc??

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I believe it is the following:

 

1329 Walnut

1333 Walnut

1335 Walnut

1339 Walnut

1341 Walnut (2 blgs)

1349-55 Walnut (3blg?)

17 Mercer

19 Mercer

23-25 Mercer

27  Mercer

18, 20, 24 Mercer (demolished 1-2 years ago)

26 Mercer

25 E. 14th St.

11 E. 14th (not owned by schools)

1317 Walnut (front and rear blgs)

1313 Walnut

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2 or 3 properties aren't owned by the school board yet...but they claim they're about to close on them.  And with the recent New London decision, I couldn't conceive of them having any difficulty if they needed to use eminent domain.

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Anybody want to meet on sunday for a photo taking buffett? We can hit coopers for brunch  :-D The auditor website doesnt show the density of the buildings together as a group.

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FYI, I haven't made any posts on this issue recently because our group has decided it is best for us to keep our hand close right now, and not make anything public until we are totally prepared and organized.  But I appreciate the support I've heard from you all, and hope you'll be willing to continue to show it when we really need it in the future!

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