Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The payoff: $59M Mercer Commons breaks ground in OTR

The Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation's (3CDC) most ambitious mixed-use project to date broke ground yesterday morning near the corner of Vine and Mercer streets in Over-the-Rhine.

The three-phased, $59 million Mercer Commons project will remake 2.67 acres of vacant buildings and lots, creating 154 condominiums and apartments; 17,600 square feet of commercial space, and 359 parking spaces.

"Normally the headline in the paper would say, 'Who would have thought', but I think that the group that's standing behind me has always thought that this neighborhood could be something extraordinary," said Chad Munitz, executive vice president of development and operations for 3CDC.

First phase construction, expected to last 16 months and costing $27 million, includes the rehabilitation of 4 historic buildings into 11 condominium units, the construction of five new townhomes, a new mixed-use building with 12 condominium units and 3,900 square feet of commercial space, and a 340-space parking garage.

Phase two, scheduled to begin this August and estimated to cost $20 million, will include the rehabilitation of 13 buildings into 46 mixed-income apartments and 8,000 square feet of commercial space, plus a new building with 21 mixed-income apartments and 5,700 square feet of commercial space.

Phase three, tentatively scheduled to begin in August 2013 and estimated to cost $12 million, will include the rehabilitation of two buildings into eight apartments, the construction of eight new three-story townhomes containing 16 apartments, and one new building with 35 apartments and 19 parking spaces.

The project mix is a result of feedback solicited during community input sessions, held between 2008 and 2011. Feedback revealed the need for more market-rate rental units, continued inclusion of affordable rental units, more retail and commercial space along Walnut Street, and more parking and green space for neighborhood residents.

All of those issues have been addressed with Mercer Commons – 30 of the apartments will be made available to those making between 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, the parking garage will be completed next March, and the project will include 26,000 square feet of green space.

Since 2007, 3CDC has invested over $200 million to restore 57 historic buildings in Over-the-Rhine, creating 186 condominiums, 68 market-rate rental units, and over 90,000 square feet of commercial space. The City has contributed $30 million.

"In order to transform a neighborhood to the magnitutde that we are experiencing in Cincinnati, you must have an iron will," said City Manager Milton Dohoney. "3CDC has that will, the City of Cincinnati has that will, the stakeholders in the area have that will. And so no one should be surprised with the continued effort to not only redevelop but transform this area that is really catching the eye across the country. There is clearly a payoff."

Munitz took the opportunity to point out that there are only six condominiums available in 3CDC's Over-the-Rhine developments.

"So come quickly," Munitz said. "These will be the next ones that come online, but you're going to have to wait a year until you can move into these."

He then pointed people to the OTR Sales Center, a half of a block away.

NorthPointe Group and St. Louis-based McCormack Baron Salazar join 3CDC on the development team, with Messer Construction serving as the general contractor. The design team includes City Studios Architecture and Cleveland-based City Architecture.

Images provided.

Previous reading on BC:
Four ordinances approved for Mercer Commons (6/8/12)
3CDC, Model Group to highlight affordable housing options (3/16/12)
Three OTR projects win $7.1M in state tax credits (12/14/09)
Cincinnati approves funding for Gateway's fourth phase (9/29/09)
Two Cincinnati projects win federal tax credits (7/7/09)