Tuesday, August 17, 2010

OTR demolition for Rothenberg project approved

Cincinnati's Historic Conservation Board has voted to approve of the demolition of an Over-the-Rhine building seen as key to the renovation of Rothenberg School.

The demolition of 217 E Clifton Avenue will make way for the expansion of the school's playground, part of a $16 million renovation project that also will include the construction of a one-story gymnasium addition and a new service drive along Hust Alley.

Demolitions at 1616-1620 and 1630 Main Street will make way for a 67-space surface parking lot.

Margo Warminski, preservation director with the Cincinnati Preservation Association, laments the loss of the three-story, one-room-wide building. The structure is thought to have been built circa 1830.

"This little building is one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood and has a lot of character," she says. "Although it's vacant, there are no current orders against it."

To Warminski, little space would be gained by removing the building. She says it's a poor tradeoff.

"With Over-the-Rhine at the tipping point in terms of loss of buildings, every building is important and every request for demolition has to be considered very carefully," Warminski says.

But Mary Anne Berry, part of a school planning team composed of community members and school staff, says that the plan to demolish 217 E Clifton Avenue is the best of all designs offered.

"We spent so much energy and time getting the Historic Conservation Board to allow some demolition of buildings for playground," she says. "There had to be something torn down to make enough playground space. Ohio mandates the exact minimum number of square feet that has to be in place for an elementary school."

The local design team of GBBN Architects and WA Architects, Inc. is currently working on construction documents, and the project is expected to go out to bid this fall.

Construction could begin by the end of the year, and the school could open in time for the 2012-2013 school year.

Berry thinks the final designs are a win-win for the neighborhood.

"The architects have been very open with the [community and staff] planning team, and I have a lot of respect for them," Berry says. "They really care about this neighborhood and our students. And in the end, this is about what is best for our children, and we accommodate the other issues as best we can."

Previous "Rothenberg" stories on BC:
Rothenberg hearing delayed two weeks (10/13/09)
Latest Rothenberg concept presented to OTR community (3/30/09)
Rothenberg planning continues (4/23/08)
Rothenberg School sends parents survey (4/16/08)
Rothenberg meeting Thursday (3/12/08)