Thursday, March 25, 2010

Ohio Most Endangered deadline Approaches

Do you or your organization know of an important historic resource in Ohio which has an uncertain future?
The deadline for nominations for the 2010 List is Friday, April 9, 2010
The List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites has been issued by Preservation Ohio since 1993, and represents an annual listing of significant pieces of Ohio history which are in danger of loss. Properties placed on this important list are publicized across the state, and the list is routinely covered by local, statewide and regional media; it has proven to be a valuable tool for focusing public attention on important properties.

The above is from Preservation Ohio's website and after much consideration, I have decided to nominate the Knox Hill neighborhood. Yes, there are lots of places to nominate in Cincinnati and there are obvious choices, places like Gamble House, whose fate may well be decided tomorrow in a court. The Reform Church on Freeman in the West End. You can drive just about anywhere in the city and see something worth saving.

But I'm selfish on this one and Ive decided to nominate the Knox Hill neighborhood. WHY? Well if I don't, if I can't draw more attention to it, our neighborhood as it stands now will be gone. Not because of slumlords, they will are willing to let their houses stand as long as they can, because they will milk them dry and hopefully when they are done there will be enough left for an enterprising passionate preservationist to save.

Its not the Banks and the foreclosure crisis either that threatens my neighborhood. There is always someone willing to buy a house for 5 grand and do something with it.

Some of the things that threaten a neighborhood like crime, have actually gotten better in our area.

No there is one BIG over-riding thing that threatens my neighborhood and in many ways we are the poster child for just what is wrong. We are endangered because of.......drumroll please..... The City of Cincinnati and its Vacant Building Task Force!

This property a unusual front gabled Second Empire Cottage is being demoed by its owner tired of fighting with city officials over its fate. It could have been restored

We have 40 properties on the VBML or condemn list and if you took a qualified architect and engineer on a tour and inspected everyone of them you quickly find that most have no major structural issues. They just need cosmetics and restoration. We are in process of preparing a historic district registry nomination and were we to lose those 40 houses there wouldn't be a neighborhood left to nominate just a house here and there.

This property sits on the condemn list and has been declared a public nuisance. this house was Looked at by qualified people from the CPA advocacy group and has no structural problems. It's fate is still uncertain.

Unlike most cities that condemn buildings because they have major structural problems and are beyond repair, the City of Cincinnati condemns property in the name of "blight". It is the "Blight=Bulldozer' mentality of city officials that threaten my neighborhood the most and its my hope that PUBLICLY EMBARRASSING them in a State and National Forum may buy me a little more time to save my neighborhood and maybe in the process effect some real change in policies that will help the entire city. Knox Hill is the Poster child for how a city policies like the VBML and overworked, unqualified, inspectors are creating a defacto situation of Governmental Redlining of Cincinnati Urban Neighborhoods, that ultimately may have to be settled by a Federal Court.

The typical house demolition results in 10 truckloads of debris going to a landfill. It is not "green" to demo and it costs an average of 10-12,000.00 to remediate and demo a typical house. One of the reasons landfill costs are so high. Most houses can be secured and "mothballed" for less.

Now that warm weather coming so come the bulldozers. My neighbors are not going to sit idly by and watch their neighborhood destroyed at the whim of the Nuisance Board which has a serious Governmental Conflict of Interest by having a board made up of people in a supervisory position over the inspectors bringing the cases before them.

This is the summer when we lobby at the State level and Federal level, this is the summer where we inundate the city council with facts and figures on the decimation to the property tax base caused by city demolition policy. This is the summer of press conferences, of media tours of the neighborhood, and a series of events that will draw greater attention to our neighborhood, its importance and why city officials 'don't get' Historic Preservation.

It will be summer of Education for city officials about our neighborhood, why it is important to the history of Cincinnati and why its restoration make sound economic sense for the City of Cincinnati. It will be a summer where we with other preservation minded groups to lobby to REPEAL, yes I said repeal, the VBML ordinance, lobby for a real Housing Court, a county Land Bank and get the city on the track of competent enforcement of Repair Orders, of making demolition a 'last resort' not a first choice. This will be the summer where we lobby to change the cost of demo permits so its not so "cheap' to demo and decrease the tax base. There is no reason to have two inspectors, one for occupied houses, one for vacant houses, inspecting and driving the same neighborhood. Not at a time of serious financial crisis for this city. It is time to 'rethink' how we deal with property and we need a seed change of attitude of the city that encourages restoration and preservation and not a climate of city officials being "adversarial or confrontational'.

The housing climate has changed in the last few years, with higher gas prices looming on the horizon moving back to Urban neighborhood makes more sense and we need to adopt the same policies that other cities have used to bring people BACK to urban neighborhoods not our current policy of demolishing them.

This will be a summer of Preservation Activism.


Karen Anne said...

When those houses are demolished, is there any organized salvaging of materials going on?

When I lived in Palo Alto, there was a company there that would organize a day when people could salvage materials from old houses on the chopping block.

It was not 100% great, because they were somewhat irresponsible (i.e. if the owner wanted stuff saved for themselves, good luck with that), but at least some things were saved.

Paul Wilham said...

It's a somewhat complicated legal situation. The city doesnt "own' the property at time of demolition.

As a result there are liability issues. Our group has been contacting the owners to obtain rights to salvage some properties that are ready for demo with our "save not raze" program.

We need some legistlative changes to happen in order to more effectively utilize these properties.