Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Rezoning approval paves way for Corryville demolition, redevelopment

Cincinnati City Council passed unanimously an ordinance rezoning an entire block in Corryville, making the demolition of 11 homes for student apartments more likely.

The rezoning, from RMX Residential Mixed to RM-0.7 Residential Multi-Family, clears the way for Uptown Rental Properties to apply for demolition permits for the properties on the block bounded by E University Avenue, Euclid Avenue, E Daniels Street, and Van Street.

This spring, the developer plans to build 72 apartment units, three- to four- story townhouse-style walkups arranged around 88 surface parking spaces. A building at 18 E Daniels Street would be retained.

The block includes Queen Anne, High Victorian buildings with towers and intricate porches and brick rowhouses built between 1885 and 1905. None of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and no federal funds will be used for the demolition – meaning a Section 106 review is not needed.

Some critical

During the Council meeting, Councilmember Laure Quinlivan said that, because of the time and money that had already been spent on the project, the rezoning should be approved.

It was also pointed out that no appeals had been filed in the 30 days since a prior public hearing in February.

Councilmember Cecil Thomas remained critical of the plan.

Thomas noted that only 17 people from the Corryville Community Council approved the redevelopment and wondered if it was really representative of the community.

Neil Clingerman, a 2007 University of Cincinnati graduate who now lives in Chicago, believes that the neighborhood needs more transparency, as everyone can't attend every community council meeting.

"One thing that would help is the Corryville Community Council updating their minutes on their website so that people who can't make it to the meeting can understand what's being discussed in the neighborhood," he says. "This [minutes] hasn't been updated for almost a year."

OTR A.D.O.P.T. Director Danny Klingler, who grew up in Corryville, argued that the buildings had been recommended for inclusion in the Ohio Historic Inventory and should not be demolished due to their historic nature.

"Certainly I think the preservation community should be notified in these instances, even if it's just a quick e-mail from a city staff person to a couple of community members," he says. "To his credit, Larry Harris e-mails out the agenda for Historic Conservation Board meetings in advance. I understand that the City Bulletin lists various zoning hearings and such, but it provides no information that would alert folks to potential demolition of significant buildings."

Dave Zelman, architect and project director at FRCH Design Worldwide, agrees that more needs to be done to alert the public.

"As always, this proves that you need someone on the ground that cares about these issues in order to react," he says. "A more widespread notification is in order. Posting this on the city's endangered buildings website or something similar would be an obvious step."

Underlying problems

Councilmember Chris Bortz had issues with the inspection process that determined the buildings to be blighted and stated that a report presented to him made no mention of the buildings' historic character.

Uptown Rental Properties President Dan Schmiberg defended himself, noting his record of restoring many historic properties in Cincinnati – including several current projects in Corryville.

The buildings in question, he said, have several underlying problems that aren't visible from the street. One had been chopped up into apartments in a botched rehabilitation during the 1970s. Others had significant interior problems.

Because of this, he said he has had a hard time leasing them.

Uptown Rental Properties might be receptive to letting the houses be moved off of the site, according to the Cincinnati Preservation Association (CPA).

CPA estimates moving costs to be at least $50,000 per house.

Aerial photo courtesy of Bing Maps

Previous reading on BC:
Saturday protest planned for Corryville redevelopment site (3/10/11)
Uptown Rental Properties plans 72 more units (2/7/11)