Thursday, March 29, 2012

Westfalen Lofts II, Freestore project variances approved

Two Over-the-Rhine projects seeking variances for increased density got approval Tuesday from Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board.

The projects include the second phase of Westfalen Lofts, a 33-unit condominium rehabilitation by John Hueber Homes and NorthPointe Group at 1426-1438 Race Street, and a 12-unit apartment rehabilitation by the Freestore Foodbank at 1606-1608 Walnut Street.

Neither project conforms to the area's zoning, which places a cap at one unit per 500 square feet of lot size. The current Commercial Community-Pedestrian (CC-P) zoning in the Over-the-Rhine Historic District would allow only 27 units and 6 units, respectively.

The $6.2 million second phase of Westfalen Lofts would combine seven separate buildings into a unified condominium complex with seven storefronts.

Rehabilitation work would include a new roof, which would match the existing shingle roof; new bronze one-over-one aluminum double hung windows; new bronze aluminum storefronts; aluminum full lite doors; new rooftop mechanical equipment, which will be hidden from view; and new decks within the light well at the rear of the building.

Units will average 900 square feet, but the smallest will top out at just over 500 square feet.

John Hueber, founder and president of John Hueber Homes, said that the sales team in Over-the-Rhine has been clamoring for a mixture of unit sizes.

"All of the ones [smaller units] we had in Over-the-Rhine are sold out," Hueber said.

Historic Conservation Board member Ken Jones wondered if there would be adequate parking, given the increase in density.

Hueber said that there would be no dedicated parking, but spaces would be available at the nearby Washington Park garage or on the street, or through a possible residential permit program.

The units are being marketed to people who may not even own a car, he said.

"Parking is an issue," Hueber said. "We've mainly designed this around the pedestrian."

"The market has progressed to a point where it now accepts these projects without dedicated parking," said Mark Gunther of Wichman+Gunther Architects, Inc., who is responsible for the buildings' design.

A separate request for a certificate of appropriateness was tabled until April 9 due to questions about cornices, lentils and sills, and the choice of windows.

Walnut Street

At 1606-1608 Walnut Street, six units would be provided in each building and would be marketed mainly to Freestore clients seeking the non-profit's housing services.

The Corwine Foundation, Freestore's real estate holdings subsidiary, found that it needed the variance to make the project viable.

According to Freestore Foodbank President and CEO Kurt Reiber, grant agreements with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati necessitated the increased density in order to win maximum funding.

The project is the non-profit's first foray into housing development.

"We have a housing program, as well as a direct rent program," Reiber said. "The size of the units we're proposing here are commensurate with what we've been putting people into – whether efficiencies or one-bedroom units."

Walnut Street photo courtesy of Cincinnati Preservation Association.

Previous reading on BC:
OTR's Westfalen Lofts lands nearly $1M in TIF funding (5/17/10)
Citirama declared 'special event' (5/5/10)
Cincinnati COOKS! photo update, 9/4/09 (9/21/09)
Freestore's Cincinnati COOKS! facility underway (5/5/09)
HCB rejects Freestore demolition plan (2/19/08)