Thursday, October 8, 2009

The RABID Preservationists are coming! The RABID Preservationists are coming!

If anything I think the owner of ResErection Inc. may have been surprised by the amount of "pushback" from the Preservation Community about his company's plans to disassemble Historic Landmarks and sell them at outrageous prices to people with more money than common sense.

I have had a couple of email conversations with the owner of ResErections Inc. and I think that we have to respectfully "Agree to Disagree" on this particular issue".

I strongly disagree with his assessment of 965 Burton in his email:

"Realistically, Burton St and the Reading Rd area is rife with drug dealing, gun killings, and gang activity. And because of the Section 8 housing it is not going to change. In short, the Hannaford house at 965 Burton will NEVER be renovated. It has sat there empty for years during times of economic boom, and no one with the money to fix it would be willing to live there. If it isn’t moved somehow, it will continue to decay, and probably wind up being demolished by the City. It is not going to be gentrified by aging yuppies with money or a new medical clinic or some software firm. It’s hopeless"

I disagree with that statement because I know people near there. I know people who are restoring over there. I know property values are starting to rise (slowly, but they are starting to rise). I also know from my own experience that a neighborhood CAN turn around. I've done it more than once and I believe the committed people who are working in that area deserve better than to have a landmark disassembled and removed from a site where it has sat for over 100 years so some person with more money than sense can pay a couple mill to buy it and a couple mill more to re-erect it with some "modern interior" If you want that, go buy Disneyland but please leave our architectural history alone! People thought we were INSANE for buying over in Knox Hill, now there is 1.2 million dollars in restorations going on and we are on target to see that double in the next year, the city is doing its job with inspections and being co-operative, some are beginning to think I was not so insane after all.

I have no sympathy for the 'California investor' who bought it and thought he'd flip it someday for some bucks. Cincinnati's problem is out of state investors who buy houses and "invest' nothing into their upkeep. A historic property is not stock or bond that you buy low and sell high. Perhaps they "resent' the fact the city is requiring a VBML on the property? He would not be in that situation if he had fixed up the property, kept the grass cut and actually "invested' in it.

The argument that Section 8"will never be gone in our lifetime" is flawed. My neighborhood in Indianapolis was "SECTION 8 Central" we had blocks of section 8 properties once grand homes that were converted to 3-4 apartments. Today they are back to single family and are worth 250K or more. How you ask? Well we actually looked at the Section 8 guidelines, rules and regulations. We looked at the code book and we forced the city to do its job as relates to condition. It took the threat of a federal lawsuit and a couple of inspectors losing their jobs over 'kickbacks' and the major "Non Profit" that was running the program in our neighborhood isn't in business any more but we got it done! You know what happened? It was no longer 'profitable' for the slumlords to do business in our neighborhood. They actually were forced by the city to maintain their properties and cut their grass. One by one, they left and now those homes are restored. The people who lived in those "hellholes" were put in safe clean affordable housing. Everyone won...except the slumlords. Some of those really bad apartment buildings, just like the ones near 965 Burton, are today high end rentals or condos.

What the owner of ResErections Inc doesn't understand is that there are people who would buy 965 Burton and restore it. When it was on the market for 99K there was even some individuals who got together and tried to raise monies via donations to buy it just to save it. There ARE people who care, There ARE people in Avondale who want to see that neighborhood succeed. They haven't given up on it an neither have I.

What hurts Cincinnati more than anything is the defeatist attitude of some people who have lived in Cincinnati for years and do not have the chutzpah to fight for change , to hold the city responsible for doing its job and turning neighborhoods around. They forget that Columbia Tusculum almost has a highway built through it. Today its one of the priciest neighborhoods in town. They forget that EVERYBODY had given up on OTR after the riots. Today OTR , thanks to 3CDC, private developers and the hard work of a lot of people is starting to turn a corner.

I received HUNDREDS of emails from across the country from people I do not know who were OUTRAGED at the very idea of dismantling landmarks to "save" them. All people who just like me came into neighborhoods no one else wanted and bought houses that no one else would buy and turned around not only that house but entire neighborhoods.

Cincinnati was the great city it was in the 1800's because people had Vision! People dreamed big! People who would not take NO for an answer. We need Preservation Hero's , not people with defeatist attitudes!

Call me a Rabid Historic Preservationist but I will be damned if I will stand idly by and watch the architectural history of this city be plundered so some guy can make a buck and some person with more money than sense can stroke their own ego.

The RABID Preservationists are a coming! The Rabid Preservationists are coming and they are not going to sit back and let this happen!


Todd McFarland said...

I admire your bold stance on the topic but I think there might be some circumstances in Cincinnati where moving is an acceptable option. Obviously, the building loses it's original context. Would you agree that moving a building within the same neighborhood or city is less objectionable than trucking it hundreds of miles away?

Paul Wilham said...

There will always be circumstances that would require a move, say expansion of a park , or a school.

The problem in Cincinnati is that we simply bulldoze. In most cities, the act of demolition for another purpose, say the house on Reading that would be demoed for a parking lot there is a public hearing process.

Most cities treat demolition as zoning change. Which means with the Reading RD property for example a public hearing would be held , neighbors notified, local association would speak for or against.

The petitioner must demonstrate the NEED to demo and must demonstrate that a hardship would exist without demo. More parking is not necessarily a reason to demo a house. Sometimes lots can be put in front or back and the house remain so at a futrture date, when the use changes, that the lots could go back to lawn.

With most historic structures it is required that an attempt to offer the property for move would be made.

We dont require that, we just allow hospitals, schools ,and everyone else to simply tear it down. We need to change that.