Thursday, September 24, 2009

Clifton Landmark faces Bulldozer

I received an email from Margo Warminski of Cincinnati Historic Preservation about this yesterday. The house at 2210 Ohio Avenue in Clifton Heights has been declared a public nuisance and is subject to demo by the City but, has not been put out to bid yet. The neighborhood didn’t know about it until yesterday,CPA was unaware as well. Both are scrambling to find a way to save it.

Apparently, the CUF Community Council is already in discussion with the City about starting a housing revitalization program that would target buildings like this. They’ve invited representatives from the South Park Historic District in Dayton, OH, to talk at their next meeting on Oct. 20 .

The house is believed to be one of the oldest in the neighborhood, built c. 1838 in the Greek Revival style and later enlarged and Victorianized. It’s on a choice site opposite Bellevue Hill Park. As far as anyone can tell, there is nothing structurally wrong with it.

Here’s the text of the nuisance decision (11/4/2008) from city records:

DECISION- A PUBLIC NUISANCE Based on the evidence received at the hearing and my personal observations, the porch ceiling is rotting and failing, there are supports for the porch which are missing and weakened causing a collapse hazard, the box gutters are deteriorated along the roof line, the sides of the building at the rear portion are showing signs of severe deterioration to the wood framing, the lot is overgrown with vegetation and the garages are in a deteriorated dangerous condition. The building in its current conditions does not meet the minimum standards for Vacant Building Maintenance license compliance as set forth in 1101-79.4 of the Cincinnati Municipal Code. For these and other reasons the building presents a fire and safety hazard to the community and therefore needs to be demolished.

So it is the city's intention to demolish a BRICK Landmark Historic structure because of deteriorated WOODEN porch, some weeds and a bad garage? INCREDIBLE!

The city system is clearly broken and it is only matter of time before someone with a good legal representation sues the city, wins and you and I, the taxpayers, wind up footing the bill.

In most cities, and in my capacity as a restoration consultant and community leader, I've worked with many city governments and I can tell you this would not happen in those cities. What would happen is the city would hire a contractor to perform "emergency stabilization" of the porch, cut the weeds, possible demo the garage and send a bill to the owner and if the owner chose not to pay, the city would go to court, seek enforcement of the mechanics lien and force a sheriffs sale or be awarded deed to the property. The city would then sell the property with first preference being given to Community Groups or local preservation organizations who might act as a selling agent for the city to find a suitable buyer. In the case of historic structure, there would be restrictive covenants placed on the property that it must be owner occupied and work be done to preservation standard and the buyer would be pre qualified financially.

The net result? The city gets its monies back, the property is sold to a RESPONSIBLE property owner and the home is returned to the tax roles.

Under the present system the city pays 15-20,000 to demo the property, makes a half hearted attempt to collect the monies (which RARELY happens), the neighborhood is stuck with a vacant lot and the loss of a historic contributing structure. Years later the vacant lot gets sold at tax sale and we have a "no win outcome" for a decade or more.

This has to stop. Not only should Historic Preservationists be outraged but EVERY taxpayer in the city should be outraged at the way this city, facing a financial crisis anyway, squanders money.

The city has an established legal precedent as they currently board structures when the owner refuses, making an "emergency repair" to a porch is no different.

It is time for city government to stop wasting money performing radical surgery (demolition) when a band aid is only required.


Paul Wilham said...


I recieved an email form Margo at CPA that the city has put a hold on demolition of this house!

Maybe beacuse of all of you calling the city and council people and screaming and yelling?

Looks like we may have won one!

Todd McFarland said...

Ridculous to demo a brick structure. Thanks for your efforts.

BDRUF said...

How much would it cost to get this place livable? It's a great building that would be a tragedy to loose.