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Monday, February 9, 2009

Historic Bank Street Demolitions (update)

Several weeks ago local and regional preservationists united in an attempt to raise awareness of a potential demolition of four historic buildings in Cincinnati's West End neighborhood. Emails were sent, calls were made, and awareness was reached to a certain extent.

Paul Wilham led these efforts locally and did not have much luck in getting a response back from the Mayor's office on the matter. I sent my own email out on January 9th to all nine members of City Council and the Mayor's office. Last week I got a response from Council member Leslie Ghiz (thank you) that included comments from the City's Code Enforcement Division and Historic Preservation Department.

833-839 Bank Street - Photo by Kevin LeMaster

In the response there were several pieces of useful information. Code Enforcement clarified that the City primarily funds its demolitions with Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). This money is not allowed to be used in demolitions that might have an "adverse impact on a historic structure" as is the case for the Bank Street properties (Streetview). As a result of this contingency, the City engages in very little demolition work of historic structures.

In the particular case here it is the private owner who is preparing to demolish these structures - not the City. The current owners, the Reed family, have applied for the demolition permits and can go forth with the demolitions as planned unless something extraordinary happens.

The Reed family has been the subject of code enforcement actions in the past. Criminal prosecution even occurred in relation to compliance issues for 839 Bank Street. As a result the City has attempted to secure the buildings by barricading them on seven different instances since 2006. The Division cites that they have "no immediate plans to demolish these buildings by governmental action," and that the owner can choose to either demolish the structures as they currently have planned, or they can bring the properties into compliance through repair.

The question was then asked if approval is needed, from the Historic Conservation Office, for private demolition in this historic district. The response was that in this particular case the answer appears to be "no."

Additional Reading:
"West End Buildings Doomed" - Building Cincinnati


John S. said...

It should be noted that this small cluster of 19th Century buildings is among the very last vestiges of historic streetscape remaining on Bank Street. When these are gone, there will be no clues left to show this area was once as densely built and vibrant an urban area as the more intact Dayton Street corridor. It would be a real irony if someday new construction on the site emulated the classic Italianate style detailing displayed in these rare survivors-but thenm imitation is always better than the real thing, right?

John S.

Paul Wilham said...

The fundamentalproblem with the city is that they ALLOW a private individual without using a liscened demolition contrator to demolish a property.Cincinnati is about the ONLY city this size that allows this.

There is no incentive to fix when you can simply demo.Owners take months to demolish , oftne with no security fencing, bricks in teh streets,etc.

Demolition should be a zoning change and community council should be notified.

The city council needs to change the law to prevent demolition by owner(or neglect). It would give the city more leverage if owners knew they might have to pay 10-15 thousand to demolish a property using a demolition contractor.

Randy Simes said...

A variance process may be the better, more appropriate, way to go instead of a zoning change. There would have to be changes made to the zoning code, but the applicant would only be concerned with the variance process for their demolition of a historic structure.

Anonymous said...

One can't help but notice the owners are supporters of Dale Mallory, brother of the Mayor; and a supporter of Citylink. That should put into perspective, any ethical shortcomings the owners may have.

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