Friday, April 30, 2010

A "New Day" for Historic Preservation in Cincinnati?

Are we seeing a 'New Day' for Historic preservation in Cincinnati? I certainly hope so.

"Preservationists Protest at Indian Hills", A Save the Gamble House Facebook Group with over 2700 members. "City Scrambles to get Historic Registry status for Gamble House". Cincinnati Preservation Association submits Bid to Buy Gamble House. Knox Hill Files Federal HUD Complaint against City for section 106 Process, City spares Smitty Buildings in OTR.

Some locals, seeing the news lately, are scratching their heads wondering if they are in a parallel universe "why all this interest in a bunch of old Buildings?" they ask.

Regardless, of if the offer to sell the Gamble House is another 'empty promise",( I am hoping this deal happens), the Gamble House has become the "poster child' for Historic Preservation in this city and has focused State, National and International attention to this city and the combined efforts of city officials and preservationists to save it.

That might NOT have happened just a year ago, the city would have simply rubber stamped a permit and another Historic property would come crashing down. Credit where credit is due, the Gamble House has been a great Educational tool to city officials. It is a building you can look at and understand why its important, why it should be saved.

A city council committee is currently looking at the city codes to see if they help, or hinder, restoration, preservation and investment in our city. There are discussions about the 106 review process going on and how it can be changed. There is serious consideration of land banking. There may be a west side neighborhood preservation summit this summer.

Preservationist rally in Indian Hills: Photo Courtesy: Save the Gamble House Facebook group.
If in 2008 you had asked me if I thought we would see busloads of people travelling across town to hold a rally in the most exclusive part of the city and people from West AND East would be there to save a historic home, I might have laughed at you.
Things, are changing, led by outsiders who have moved to Cincinnati joining with long time residents, the efforts, and discussion , of historic preservation, its value as an economic redevelopment tool, and a jobs creation tool, is starting to gain traction in this city. Not just with the preservation community, which is growing larger every day, but with public perceptions as well. Findlay market is packed on the weekends if you drive through areas like Fairmount and Price Hill you will hear the sounds of hammers and saws as restorations magically appear on blocks formerly the exclusive haven of section 8 rentals. Eyesore apartment buildings are coming down in Westwood.
Parts of Avondale, few thought anyone would venture into a year or two ago, are being restored by young couples whose dream house isn't some suburban tract home "McMansion", but a real Victorian mansion. It is about crisp and clean condos being built in tenements that had been vacant for decades in OTR. Grand Mansions of Dayton Street under restoration. The Metropole return to its historic luxury hotel past. The seeds of change, of restoration, are EVERYWHERE.

We have long road ahead of us with many challenges to face . Their will still be losses, but more victories as well. Personally, based on recent evidence, I am more optimistic about the decade going forward. I think we will look back 10 years from now and realize that the Gamble House fight, regardless of what the outcome is, has been a major turning point for Historic preservation in Cincinnati.

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