Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oakley business owners propose redevelopment of abandoned rail station

John Hutton and Sandra Gross want to make sure that the investments they’ve made in Oakley don't go to waste.

Hutton and Gross, husband-and-wife owners of Brazee Street Studios and Blue Manatee Children's Bookstore and Decafé, have been working to attract businesses and families into what was once "a magnet area for drugs and sketchy dealings", Hutton said in a recent communication to Cincinnati Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls.

"We are deeply invested and proud of the area, and though stressed by all of the Madison Road construction, are excited about the recent development and continued upward arc of the neighborhood," he said.

Hutton and Gross formed Brazee Street studios in December 2009 as a resource center to teach the "warm glass" art form. The renovated warehouse, which is pursuing a LEED Silver rating, features 21,000 square feet of rentable artist space, a teaching studio, art gallery, and a 33.5 kilowatt Solyndra photovoltaic solar panel system.

They have even taken to renovating two apartment buildings – one on Brazee Street and one on Enyart Street – and have sent two long-time problem tenants packing.

But despite their best efforts, they still see a steady flow of derelict individuals crossing the Madison Road pedestrian bridge and walking along the railroad tracks, sometimes trespassing onto their property.

To clean up the area, Hutton suggested that the City and neighborhood work together to redevelop the abandoned, boarded up passenger rail station at the end of Tracy Street into a community center, museum, or other public use.

Built in 1871 to serve passengers on the Marietta & Cincinnati line, it was purchased by the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) line in 1880 and later became part of the Chessie system.

According to records, the station's last use appears have been in June 1950, when B&O rerouted the Cincinnatian service from Baltimore-Cincinnati to Detroit-Cincinnati, bypassing Oakley altogether.

To Hutton, the station's redevelopment would be an excellent investment for Oakley and the City of Cincinnati, building on a budding "arts district" that includes such businesses as Brazee Street Studios, Boca, and Voltage.

Otherwise, potential tenants, customers and residents may sour on the emerging neighborhood and Oakley could begin a steady rot.

"With modest city investment, the lot could be upgraded or converted into green serpace, the station could become an Oakley attraction, the tracks cleaned up to make them inviting for walkers, joggers, etc, and the neighborhood overall greatly improved," he said. "Our tax dollars surely are in favor!"