Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Two historic Greenhills townhomes facing demolition

Greenhills Village Council has voted to demolish two multi-frame townhouses on DeWitt Court, part of the original fabric of a village that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA) has learned that utilities have been disconnected and bids will soon be taken for demolition.

Tenants in the rental units were removed a month ago.

The demolition is part of an ambitious redevelopment plan launched in the late 1990s meant to remove many of the multi-family buildings in the village and replace them with new homeownership units, with the goal of growing the village tax base by encouraging younger, higher-income families.

Since 2000, the village has spent more than $3 million acquiring and demolishing properties, the vast majority of which were rental housing.

So far, 52 units of housing have been removed, and much of the land remains vacant.

In the area of DeWitt Court and Drummond Street, Potterhill Homes has developed a portion of its DeWitt Landing project, a 16-unit development of single-family cottages and bungalows priced from $180,000.

Protection strategies

The 530-acre Village of Greenhills, first occupied in 1938, was one of three "greenbelt" towns, a New Deal experiment in relieving urban congestion, providing affordable housing, and building livable communities.

Of the three greenbelt towns – the others being Greendale, Wis. and Greenbelt, Md. – Greenhills is the only one to have torn down any of its original homes.

As recently as February, council member Christine Visnich told the Cincinnati Enquirer that "the historic homes that are in good condition will not be touched", and that units demolished so far were in such bad shape that it would be too expensive for the village to repair them.

Within the past couple of months, the local chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council has contacted the village about using the buildings for a green renovation project that would be showcased during its conference in 2001; So far, they have yet to receive a response.

In an attempt to save as many remaining structures as possible, the Greenhills Historical Society and CPA are pushing to have the village named as a National Historic Landmark.

A comprehensive master plan being prepared by the village and the Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, due late this year or early next year, may also offer some protections.

Photo of buildings to be demolished courtesy of Margo Warminski, Cincinnati Preservation Association.