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Guest UncleRando

Cincinnati: Downtown: Fountain Square West

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I kind of thought the writing might be on the wall for the Downtown Brooks Brothers when the Kenwood location opened.  I hope they stay, and I think if they can wait for a year or two more, Downtown will have more residents, hotel guests, restaurants, bars, and office workers...business would surely improve.

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I shop at the DT Macy's numerous times per year. I've shopped at the Kenwood one maybe once in the last year. I'm doing my part to keep it open.

 

This is an exciting time for downtown. I'm glad I got an apartment in OTR while they were still relatively affordable

 

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1) Logistically speaking:  How in the world to they build a skyscraper on top of an existing building?  Is this common?

 

2) Its great to hear of all these new developments, but can the Cincinnati population use all these effectively?  With this, the banks, the old Enquirer building, 580, Mercer project, random OTR projects, seems like there will be too big of a supply for the demand.

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Yeah, several skyscrapers around the world have had floors added while the old section remained occupied.  Also, many very tall buildings start using their parking grage and lower floors while the upper floors are still under construction.

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the old Enquirer building will be a Hilton-family hotel, not residential.

 

Also, FWIW I believe one or more of these will never get off the ground due to financing and other constraints. I've lived in Cincinnati long enough to know how these things go -- I'll believe it when I see it.

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1) Logistically speaking:  How in the world to they build a skyscraper on top of an existing building?  Is this common?

 

The building was built with the expectation that a tower would be built on top of it. I'm sure the developers expected it to happen much closer to the time of original construction, but it didn't. Only now that Fifth Third is nearing the expiration of their air rights has this proposal come forward. Seems like they are scared that if they don't take advantage, someone else will.

 

2) Its great to hear of all these new developments, but can the Cincinnati population use all these effectively?  With this, the banks, the old Enquirer building, 580, Mercer project, random OTR projects, seems like there will be too big of a supply for the demand.

 

All the apartments being built in OTR and Downtown are being snatched up as soon as they come on the market. Until that slows down, it seems Cincinnati's population is very capable of "using all these effectively."

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1) Logistically speaking:  How in the world to they build a skyscraper on top of an existing building?  Is this common?

 

The existing building was built to accommodate a high-rise tower above. While not exactly commonplace, this has been done before.

 

2) Its great to hear of all these new developments, but can the Cincinnati population use all these effectively?  With this, the banks, the old Enquirer building, 580, Mercer project, random OTR projects, seems like there will be too big of a supply for the demand.

 

The long-term hope is to grow Cincinnati's population; to reach a critical mass where Cincinnati becomes an attractive city for people moving in from outside the region, rather than merely moving downtown from other neighborhoods. Anybody who has looked for an apartment in downtown or OTR recently can tell you there is a lot of pent-up demand, and the market is far from oversaturated.

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The building was built with the expectation that a tower would be built on top of it. I'm sure the developers expected it to happen much closer to the time of original construction, but it didn't. Only now that Fifth Third is nearing the expiration of their air rights has this proposal come forward. Seems like they are scared that if they don't take advantage, someone else will.

 

I was working at Downtown Cincinnati Inc. at the time this deal was done; 5/3 bought the air rights to basically ensure that Star Bank (FirstStar, whatever it became later, etc.) didn't get space there.  5/3 didn't need the space for the forseeable future as they were already downsizing their downtown operations as their development of the Red Bank site was in full swing with their acquisition of the former U.S. Shoe building and the adjacent development they were completing.  The development group (Towne Properties, Warm Construction and the Belvedere Group) would have loved to have built the tower, I attached the rendering somewhere around here years ago, but did the smart thing and took the air rights money as a sure thing!

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^ Man, I don't even know where Kenwood is!

 

In all seriousness, I thought the Macy's store downtown was doing pretty okay from anecdotal evidence. Seemed like my coworkers were doing a lot of shopping there during lunch breaks.

 

It's interesting that a residential project is moving forward in hopes to keep and allure retail in the CBD. The market is clearly there for downtown residential, and it would seem to follow that retail would pop up where the population is. Speaks to how difficult it is to develop a functioning downtown neighborhood, especially when contrasted to how easy it is to develop in the exurbs.

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I really hope this gets built and it's a color other than brown, tan or gray. I second what Living in Gin said about FRCH doing the redesign of the base.

 

About Brooks Brothers - it would be a shame for the downtown store to close. That would not bode well for downtown retail. That being said, Cleveland has two BB stores: one at Tower City downtown and another at Eton Square (on the Outerbelt Freeway). Downtown Pittsburgh, however, has a really great Brooks Brothers (one of the best I've ever visited) with no suburban counterpart.

 

Comparing Cincinnati urban retail to Pittsburgh and Cleveland - I think it's headed in the right direction if we can maintain the status quo (don't lose any big names) for the next couple years. As more developments pop up, I'd expect to see downtown Cincinnati start attracting more one-in-a-region type stores. Kenwood continues to be DT's biggest competitor but with the improved hotel/housing/dining scene downtown I can't imagine that dominance lasting forever.

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^ Thanks for bringing the Helmut-Jahn Fountain Square West proposal back to the forefront.  (Needless to say: could have been, would have been, should have been...but wasn't.)  I remember well my own awe upon first seeing this beautiful, striking building on the front page of the Enquirer.  (Some detractors even torpedoed it because they claimed it would block the afternoon sunlight on Fountain Square...too bad.)  :-(

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The Helmut-Jahn's controversial "exo-skeleton" was much discussed; many people admired it, others hated it.  Ironically (if I recall correctly) the structure would have been 665-ft. tall--virtually the same height as the Great American Tower.  As for myself, I was terribly disheartened when, sometime later, the proposal for this remarkable building was shot down.

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I think it's 22 but if it is 22 will it be built to support additional floors so it can one day be taller than Carew? That'd be amazing.

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This is exactly where Cincinnati's tallest building should be, not on Third Street.

 

What other sites are realistic for a new tallest other than the Western-Southern spinning clock garage site or possibly Third and Walnut?

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Fourth and Plum would be the first that comes to mind.  Also, the lots near St. X.

 

I've always like the idea of the next significant addition to the skyline have some separation in the same way Kroger does.  It has a way of giving the skyline a more expansive feel.

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A car dealership owns the big lot west of Sycamore between 7th & 8th.  St. Xavier High School owns the lot north of St. Xavier church. 

 

I have heard that the car dealer is in fact holding out for a mega-project and mega-payday. 

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Here is the circa 1991 Helmut Jahn rendering:

 

Oh man, that is sweet.

 

Thanks for posting. When that rendering was released in 1991, most people didn't like it. One said that it looks like it isn't finished. I agree. I don't think that the cantilevers and empty space add anything to the building.

 

I have heard that the car dealer is in fact holding out for a mega-project and mega-payday. 

 

This is a problem typical of American cities: land is held in speculation, and is made into surface parking lots or other minimal uses in the meantime. One could almost say that this effect is a negative consequence of skyscraper construction. I would love to see all of the empty lots in downtown Cincinnati filled with 4-story buildings, instead of a handful of skycrapers surrounded by so much wasted land. 

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The Jahn design has an identity crisis. It looked like someone just took 4 or 5 different building models and just meshed them all together on a computer program. That may have been the point. Not sure how it would've looked right next to Carew Tower. Simplify it just a bit and I think it could've worked. Guess we will never know. The bottom half actually isn't that bad minus the teal poles...whatever those things are. It is that exterior framing, especially the upper half that doesn't work for me.

 

I like the Jahn building - even though it looks like the Kroger Building (my least favorite Cincinnati tower) is pushed into the left side like some weird game of Super Jenga.

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What strikes me about the Jahn design is how wide it is at its considerable height. The top of Carew Tower is so squatty. Also, it would be nice for a Cincinnati skyscraper to have an exoskeleton or something a little unconventional.

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^ Aw, come on, fellas!  It's not fair to look at the Jahn building through "2012 eyes," okay?  As mentioned before, the structure incorporated a radical "exo-skeleton" (at least for Cincinnati, circa 1991) that would have wowed onlookers and dominated the entire Fountain Square area.  Needless to say, the tenants of the Carew Tower would have asked for their money back if they were situated on their building's north side, but life was never fair.  And, with respect, I don't see any resemblance, whatsoever, between the Jahn and the Kroger building; the first would have revolutionized our view of our CBD while the second puts us to sleep...so sad.

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^ Cincinnati is a very conservative town in more ways than one.  Even within a politically liberally, online urban discussion forum crowd, architectural critiques are conservative.  Most posters here like Queen City Square because it’s tall and not ugly.  It’s safe and standard.  It did not turn a single head outside of Cincinnati, though.  The Helmut Jahn building would have turned heads.  It reminds me of Norman Foster’s HSBC Building in Hong Kong, which while being far from the tallest or shiniest building in HK, is one of the most talked about, and held in the highest esteem among architects.

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The Helmut Jahn building would have turned heads.  It reminds me of Norman Foster’s HSBC Building in Hong Kong, which while being far from the tallest or shiniest building in HK, is one of the most talked about, and held in the highest esteem among architects.

agreed 100% - cincy could use something like the HSBC building (but updated)

 

my dad took this photo of the former HSBC building in HK in the 60s (PHOTO) and here's the wikipedia image for it (PHOTO)

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I agree with Ram23. The Helmut Jahn scheme came around the same time UC unveiled its "signature architect" campus master plan, and along with those projects and Zaha's CAC and Liebeskind's building in Covington, would have gone a long ways toward putting Cincinnati on the map for contemporary architecture. Not that starchitect architecture necessarily equals good architecture (see: Eisenman's DAAP building and Liebeskind's aforementioned condo tower), but it would have turned heads. And knowing Helmut Jahn's projects in other cities, I think it would have been a well-executed project with quality materials and detailing.

 

Now people on UO are creaming their pants over Queen City Square, which would be considered a mediocre building in Houston or Indianapolis, simply because it's tall. Cincinnati deserves better.

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The more I think about the 200+ apartment tower over Macys, the less I like it.  I don't think the site is really fit for residential, and I don't really want to see a highrise built on Fountain Place.  I think that too dominating of a structure would really overwhelm the scale of Fountain Square and block a lot of sunlight that the square currently enjoys.  I do think that Fountain Place is a little underwhelming by itself, but I think it would be great if a midrise 5-8 story building added.  Ideally, Dunhumby could have built their ~5 story office building over Fountain Place, and the residential tower could have been built at 5th and Race. 

 

With Fountain Square always playing host to firework shows, concerts, big public events, etc. I think it would just be a loud and very public place to live.  You know how you can see people standing in the windows at the Westin from the square? Who would want to live in a place that they are essentially always visible to lots of people? 5th and Race is just a block removed from all of this, but it is considerably quiet over there, and I feel like it could have really added to the residential community on the west side of downtown. 

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The more I think about the 200+ apartment tower over Macys, the less I like it.  I don't think the site is really fit for residential, and I don't really want to see a highrise built on Fountain Place.  I think that too dominating of a structure would really overwhelm the scale of Fountain Square and block a lot of sunlight that the square currently enjoys.  I do think that Fountain Place is a little underwhelming by itself, but I think it would be great if a midrise 5-8 story building added.  Ideally, Dunhumby could have built their ~5 story office building over Fountain Place, and the residential tower could have been built at 5th and Race. 

 

With Fountain Square always playing host to firework shows, concerts, big public events, etc. I think it would just be a loud and very public place to live.  You know how you can see people standing in the windows at the Westin from the square? Who would want to live in a place that they are essentially always visible to lots of people? 5th and Race is just a block removed from all of this, but it is considerably quiet over there, and I feel like it could have really added to the residential community on the west side of downtown.

 

I think you made some very valid points, however apartments are not a valid option at 5th and race. The apartments were only feasible with the infrastructure (parking structure) in place. The apartments were piggy backing off the office building, without the office building there is no apartments. This is why fountain square west is a valid option for apartments as the infrastructure is already there.

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With Fountain Square always playing host to firework shows, concerts, big public events, etc. I think it would just be a loud and very public place to live.  You know how you can see people standing in the windows at the Westin from the square? Who would want to live in a place that they are essentially always visible to lots of people? 5th and Race is just a block removed from all of this, but it is considerably quiet over there, and I feel like it could have really added to the residential community on the west side of downtown.

 

Good point, though its not much different than the Banks, which was really popular.  Also in larger cities there is plenty of residental mixed in major entertainment districts.  Walk down Milwaukee Ave on a warm Friday night in Wicker Park, Chicago, and you'll see people partying on in the apartments above the bars in addition to people drunkenly hopping from bar to bar.

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