Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Clifton School named by state as a 'top preservation opportunity'

Heritage Ohio, a statewide partner of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has named the 1906 Clifton School at Clifton and McAlpin avenues to its 2009 Top Preservation Opportunities List, an annual list that brings attention to historically important properties that could be preserved with community investment and effort.

"We use the Top Opportunities List to spur new interest in people for their local landmarks that have become deteriorated, but can still be rehabilitated," said Joyce Barrett, executive director of Heritage Ohio, in a media release. "Too often, when a building is left in a deteriorated state for a long period, it's just too easy for a community to adopt a 'status quo' mentality. The building continues to suffer neglect, until finally, demolition becomes the only option."

Unlike the 'Endangered Buildings' listings, the Top Preservation Opportunities List presents a positive basis for beginning negotiations with property owners and increases statewide visibility for underutilized properties, Barrett added.

Clifton Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) executive director Ruth Dickey, whose organization is in the process of renovating the school, says that it's an honor to have the building selected as one of the top preservation opportunities in the state.

"We're really excited about the designation," she says. "The Top Opportunities are a positive perspective as compared to 'Most Endangered' and are selected based on historic significance, community support and future potential, so we think it actually speaks really highly of the great work that has been done to transform the Clifton School into CCAC."

Dickey hopes that the designation will help CCAC raise money for the first phase of the building's renovation, which will add an elevator, fire protection system, and a new secured lobby – making the entire building ADA-compliant and opening up the auditorium, Great Hall and music rooms for renovation.

"Particularly as dollars are so tight, all of us are trying to think about what the highest priorities are for funding, and where the key leverage points are where dollars can make a difference," she says.

So far, $1.51 million in capital dollars has been raised from City, state, and anonymous donors, and Dickey says that they hope to break ground on the first phase this fall.

Funds carried over from the first phase would go to upgrade the school's mechanicals and to make interior and exterior improvements, and to restore the nearby McDonald Estate Carriage House, creating three to four artist studios and a ground-floor gathering and gallery space.

Total project costs for the entire arts campus exceed $3 million.

"We'll be completing design development and construction documents for the Carriage House this summer, so it's ready to go to bid if money falls from the sky, or a donor who is passionate about restoring this gorgeous Carriage House steps up," Dickey says.

Completed in 1906, Clifton School was designed by Cincinnati Board of Education architect E.H. Dornette, whose firm also designed Avondale School, Hyde Park School, and Central Fairmount School.

Also making Heritage Ohio's 2009 list were Bell's Opera House, Hillsboro; the Catholic Churches of Cleveland; Gunning House, Columbus; Holland Theater, Bellfontaine; Johnny Clem Birthplace, Newark; Sorg Mansion, Middletown; Stone Eagle Farm, Avon; Trautman Building, Columbus; and Tremont House, Bellevue.

Previous reading on BC:
'Floodwall' and Everyone's Famous! Blogger Bash (9/23/08)
Qualls pushes $750K for Clifton arts center (9/17/08)
Inside Fairview-Clifton German Language School (6/24/08)
Inside the Clifton Cultural Arts Center (4/10/08)
Volunteers needed to clean Clifton School (1/11/08)