Wednesday, May 6, 2009

West End Demolitions are a" Wake Up" Call for Preservationists!

As reported today in Building Cincinnati, demolition has taken place on 2 of the 4 Bank street Houses, some of the oldest structures in the West End/Dayton street area. http://www.building-cincinnati.com/2009/05/half-of-bank-street-buildings-down.html

This was not only a loss for the Dayton Street area and West End but a loss for this city as well. These properties are gone and with them part of our History. We now have vacant lots worth less than the properties that stood on them and the city tax base further shrinks. As a taxpayer you should be concerned. You should be outraged that your history is being demolished and your city government doesn't care and allows it to happen.

The mayor does not care, the city council does not care. Were there any council people involved trying to save these structure? NO. Was our "Illustrious Mayor" who claimed to care about the history of this city involved ? NO. I got an email from one of the flunkies in his office re-iterating the 'commitment' of the mayor to our historic city" after I contacted him. Some 'commitment" Mr Mayor.

What little effort there was to try to negotiate to save a part of this cities history was a few local residents and a few preservationists trying to find a buyer willing to work with a city government that does nothing but throw roadblocks up at preservation efforts and whose mantra is Blight=Bulldozer.

In ANY other city these properties would have been saved. The city would have denied demolition permits and would be going to court trying to save these buildings. Attempts would have been made to find grant monies to acquire them. Facade grants would be offered. Tax abatement would have been promised, New sidewalks would have been put in that block. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING would have been done by a city to save these 140 yr old structures.

But not Cincinnati. whose city government is "thrilled" every time they get more CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) monies so they can go bulldoze some more properties on their ever growing list. The council doesn't adequately fund buildings and inspections so they can work with property owners to maintain properties and not let things get in this situation. We don't even have a full time housing court!

No, its is far easier to throw a VBML at it and force the owner to bulldoze it or wait for those CDGB monies and do it with taxpayer money that should be used for things like Facade Grants, paintup/fixup programs, sidewalks and neighborhood improvements.

When Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston SC, I was there, I bought a house and brought it back to life, I watched as everyone around me brought back homes that many thought were to "far gone" to save. I worked with others to see that historic homes in "disadvantaged neighborhood' got their share of funding. I watched a city 'restore' itself, and reinvent itself, and today stands as one of the best examples of what Historic Tourism can do to attract business and create a multi million dollar viable economy largely based on historic tourism.

A few years ago when Katrina Hit New Orleans, I was sending back recommendations and specs for homeowners who were rebuilding from "fragments' of historic homes left after the region was decimated. I watched buildings and homes that were barely standing, carefully restored. There was no suggestion that we just bulldoze them and start over. The people of New Orleans understood that those old houses and buildings were part of what made New Orleans what it is and NOBODY was tearing their history down. They saved not only the Grand mansions, but the simple worker cottage shotguns, why? Because it was thier history and it was important!

So where is the outrage Cincinnati? I have challenged this city council to explain time an time again why we are using urban renewal models that have FAILED miserably everywhere they were used and the vast majority of Urban Planners have abandoned. Has ANYONE on the council got back to me on several open letters challenging them to explain this policy? NO. I have offered this blog space, read by a national monthly audience of 80,000 plus old house owners and preservation minded people to ANY MEMBER of the council or the MAYOR to defend and justify their "bulldoze mentality". I will again offer, Any takers out there? Any of you up for re-election care to tackle a REAL issue and take an actual STAND on something?

Elections are a great way to begin "Urban Renewal" maybe the way we "Renew" our city is to start with a new council? If the council doesn't care about the history of this city then lets make them history, because as I see it they have NO CLUE what they are doing. Urban Renewal with a bulldozer is a FAILURE, as is this council and this mayor!

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