Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hospital expansion, or demolition by neglect?

Cincinnati Preservation Assocation director Margo Warminski reports that the City's Historic Conservation Board has approved of the demolition of two Auburn Avenue apartment buildings.

The board's split vote gives building owners Gamble Realty Co., a holding company for Christ Hospital, the okay to raze the buildings at 2035 Auburn Avenue and 139 Mason Street.

"They're good background buildings," Warminski says.

Gamble Realty says that sites are needed for the hospital's future expansion, but will probably remain grassy lots for at least five years.

"If you won't 'need' the land for five years or more, why not leave the buildings there and collect the rents?" Warminski says. "A lot can happen in 5 years -- or even less."

In an earlier hearing with the board, Gamble Realty argued that the buildings were so dilapidated that they were no longer financially viable.

John Senhauser, chairman of the Historic Conservation Board, noted during the hearing that Gamble Realty had owned the buildings for more than 20 years and were using hospital expansion as a way of avoiding "the appearance of demolition by neglect".

Warminski says she believes that the real plan is "to create a fake suburban campus" with a buffer zone in an attempt to keep perceived blight at bay.

"We fear this sets a bad precedent," she says.

No demolition permit applications have been filed.

Built between 1927 and 1930, both buildings total over 30,000 square feet in living space.