Friday, September 24, 2010

Cincinnati Roadblocks to Preservation: City "Requires' form it doesn't even have!

As regular readers know, every week we try to spotlight a historic house, currently on the market. It is our hope that providing a national exposure to the 100000 or so readers of this blog every month, that we can highlight the architectural treasures that this city has, and hopefully, attract new preservationists to Cincinnati.

To date this has been a successful effort, several of these homes are now in Preservationist hands instead of a slumlord or the wrecking ball of the city. These are the kind of homes that require substantial investments of funds, often in the hundreds of thousands. These restorations pour large amounts of monies into the local economy, from local home improvement stores to local tradespeople jobs are maintained.

Buying one of these homes is never easy. Most have been through a foreclosure process or have been cut up into apartments by slumlords. Most of the people buying these homes are ‘self financing’ them, using their own savings as most banks will not loan money on these houses , usually because of city orders.

I always warm people to expect little , if any, cooperation or encouragement from city officials, but rather be prepared for roadblocks and obstacles. Unlike most cities that recognize the value of Historic preservation as an economic development  tool, Cincinnati, addicted to federal monies as way to supplement their payroll shortfalls, would much rather demo these properties to keep their ‘fix’ of federal funds coming.

So it is never easy, from VBML passed out like candy by inspectors, condemn orders on houses with no structural issues but rather as ‘escalation’ because the inspector can not get a hold of the owner. The city is always finding new ways to keep properties out of the hands of people who would restore them and keep them stuck on their demo list.

Such is the case with a Dayton street property we featured a while back. Several people have stepped up to buy it and all have walked away rather than deal with the mountain of paperwork thrown at them by city officials. One family from St Louis, who are avid Preservationist with a clear track record of historic restoration, however have picked up the gauntlet and is determined to buy a “down on its luck” Italianate on Dayton.

The current stumbling block aside from VBML and condemn orders is the city requirement that a bond be posted relative to the carriage house the city wants demoed. Even after all the other things the city requires, the buyers said OK, however there is just one catch, the city is asking for a bond yet has NO FORM to provide the buyers so that the title company can complete the closing!

Credit where credit is due Ed Cunningham has worked overtime to try to get this process done, he may be the ONLY person in city government who understand that people coming in and spending hundreds of thousands in the West End is good thing, however its the city attorney who is dropping the ball and can’t seem to spend a few minutes to draft a bond form. This is holding up the closing process and its critical that they get closed soon so they have time to get a new roof put on and get any exterior work done before the weather turns bad.

Ultimately the title company may have to ‘wing it’ and come up with a form and ‘hope’ it meets the approval of city officials who do not own this house anyway.

So we have people willing to make a several hundred thousand dollar investment in a house the city cares nothing about yet it is the city that is throwing up roadblocks like this. AMAZING!

Perhaps our city council needs to ask the city legal department why they can’t do their job and are holding up a major project by people who not only are moving themselves to Cincinnati but moving their business as well?

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