Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What becomes of Meiner Flats donations?

With the City of Cincinnati voting to contribute $187,000 to save the Meiner Flats building at 1500-1502 Vine Street in Over-the-Rhine, what becomes of the preservation donations?

In an e-mail communication to donors, "Save the Meiner Flats" organizer Danny Klingler says that they received nearly $6,000 in pledges, which they were able to convert into nearly $4,000 in donations.

The pledge drive, in which donors promised everything from $10 to their entire economic stimulus rebate checks, received media attention from NPR, Preservation Magazine, WCPO-TV, and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"Though not huge in absolute terms, being able to tell the Department of Buildings and Inspections, the Mayor's Office, the City Council, and other departments in the City of Cincinnati that ordinary citizens had donated this sum of money was a huge symbolic gesture that I believe had a tremendous impact on the ultimate decision to save the building," he says. "It certainly had an impact on the individual with control over the wrecking ball -- Ed Cunningham, Mayor Mallory, and individuals within the City Planning department, and I can only imagine it affected council members as well in their final decision".

Interestingly, although the City was aware of how much money had been raised prior to the council resolution, they never requested any of the money.

And although Klinger stands by his promise to return every dime of the donations, he has proposed an alternative - holding the money in case of another preservation emergency.

"Over-the-Rhine is by no means out of the woods," he says. "Numerous other buildings are on the demolition horizon, and just last week Hurricane Ike hit the neighborhood and caused a lot of damage. There is a lot of power in being able to point to a dedicated source of funds raised by the public. Having this money set aside next time, rather than having to scramble to raise it, would provide a lot of leverage."

Klingler also says that this money could be used to jumpstart an initiative headed by the Over-the-Rhine Foundation to wrestle endangered buildings from negligent owners through receivership, make repairs, and get them rehabilitated.

Before any action is taken, Klingler wants to hear from donors.

Meiner Flats, built around 1875 and vacant for at least 20 years, had been scheduled for early demolition in March.

3CDC will contribute $200,000 to the stabilization of the building, which will likely be turned over to a developer for residential and retail re-use.

Image credit: Danny Klingler

Previous reading on BC:
Cincinnati approves $187K for Meiner Flats stabilization agreement (9/18/08)
City considers $187,000 for Meiner Flats stabilization (9/2/08)
New Meiner Flats blog to aid in preservation effort (5/7/08)
Preservation Magazine spotlights Meiners Flats (5/1/08)
Donate economic stimulus rebate to save 1500 Vine (4/15/08)