Monday, May 17, 2010

Rezoning means Irish cultural center can proceed

Now that its property has been rezoned, the Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati can ramp up its hard work in converting the former McKinley School in Columbia Tusculum into a new cultural center for the East Side.

The rezoning of 1.5 acres at 3905 Eastern Avenue has been changed from ML Manufacturing Limited District to CN-P Commercial Neighborhood-Pedestrian, allowing for its use as a cultural institution and making its zoning more appropriate for the surrounding neighborhood.

Since 1876, Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) owned and operated the school building and maintained the property, but put it up for auction in 2005 after moving its students to the new Riverview East Academy.

During the auction process, it was discovered that the underlying land was actually owned by the City of Cincinnati, so the property was turned over to CPS so that the land and building could be sold as one package.

The Columbia Tusculum Community Council petitioned the City for the rezoning, so, in late 2009, the City Planning Commission initiated a zoning study.

Based upon the study's findings, the City Planning Commission approved the rezoning at its January 8 meeting, stating in a staff report that the current zoning was not ideal and that the continuation of manufacturing uses could damage "significant revitalization efforts of the neighborhood business district".

"This zoning designation will ensure the character of the NBD is protected while allowing commercial and associated uses to operate without hindrance," the report said.

Modeled after the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, the new 44,000-square-foot Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati is expected to include a museum, library, a space for performances and lectures, art gallery, offices, a dance school, a radio station, gift shop, and a small eating and drinking establishment.

So far, owners Maureen Kennedy and Kent Covey have spent more than $20,000 on building improvements. Transformation of the former school is expected to take approximately five years to complete.

Photo courtesy of Dan Becker, Queen City Survey.