Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dayton Street, The Hatch House and a new Preservation Energy.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to tour the Hatch and Gazlay Mansions on Dayton Street, arguably among the finest architecture in the City of Cincinnati. Of course over the last year or so I have had a number of conversation with various people about the area and I find that people’s perceptions are not rooted in reality.
The fact that Details like this exist 150 years later is nothing short of amazing,
Ask most people their thoughts about Dayton street and they conjure up visions of prostitutes, drug dealers and roving gangs of thugs. While that might have described the area in years past it doesn’t anymore. Dayton street has turned a corner and is in my opinion well on its way to being the premiere downtown neighborhood. Laughable you say? Not really, you just have to really look around the neighborhood.
Few could afford luxuries like this over the top mirror
In 2008 When I was considering Cincinnati I toured Dayton Street on several occasions and in fact I looked at several houses on the market there. There were many vacant homes and many, many, low income converted apartment houses. Over the last two years the first thing I do is take out of town preservationists to Dayton street. Why? The architecture. Dayton Street is one of those great places architecturally, it’s in the Same league architecturally with the Battery in Charleston, The French quarter in New Orleans,  Nob Hill in San Francisco, Lafayette Square in St Louis, or 3rd and 4th street in Louisville. It is that over the top, exuberant architecture that you find only in a handful of places these days. These should be the most exclusive expensive homes in the downtown starting at 250K and easily going well over a million or more,given the equality, the proximity to downtown and the size of these homes they should be in hot demand. They are to those from out of town and if we properly market this treasure we can fully restore this neighborhood..

Minton Encaustic tile like this would cost over a hundred thousand to install in a house this size today

To out of town “old house people” the reaction is overwhelming and the normal reaction is “this is still here?”. It is in fact “architectural overload’ for architecture aficionados and preservationists.

Over the last two years of following Dayton street I have noted the following. There is A LOT of restoration going on. Several vacant Homes I saw in 2008 are now restored or well under restoration. Many homes that had been converted to apartments, now have 1 mailbox instead of 3-5.

I was taken back to find an in ground pool at one house and took note when I observed a Rolls-Royce carefully come down the alley from a garage behind a certain house on the street where its kept carefully tucked away from prying eyes.

Quietly with out any fanfare, money has come to Dayton Street. There are several homes that have easily had between 2-500 K invested. I might add that several are probably prepared to spend that much or more over the next few years. It is that investment that if city officials are smart they could build on to turn around the west end, which has long been an area of competing interests, Preservationist, Social “do-gooders” trying to maintain the status quo and criminal elements who tried to drive everyone out.
Even in back room of no importance are stunning  details This fireplace is well above the style in a typical home of the time

Prostitutes are being replaced by college professors, gang bangers by executives who work downtown.. Sure some of those old elements are still around but as more and more homes are converted Back to single family it would be hard to deny the dynamic is changing.

First, the city needs to stop throwing roadblocks at the turnaround. Things like the VBML and Condemn orders on houses without serious structural problems needs to stop. We need to have a demolition moratorium for 3-5 years in the area to allow for those homes to be put in preservation hands.

The city needs to raise the 10-year tax abatement limit of 275,000.00 to 500,000.00 and increase the base time frame to 12 years.

The city needs to take a fresh look at Central Avenue and a redevelopment plan should be implemented that creates a good mix of neighborhood and ‘tourist based” business like antique shops,  art galleries and boutiques.

The city needs to hire a consultant like CPA to perform a house by house architectural inventory assessment and use those recommendations as to condition and need to offer fa├žade grants (using CDBG funding) instead of using that funding for demolition.

A Steering Committee of residents, architects and business interests should be formed to develop a plan for the two schools on Dayton Street. Either as Condominium development or attracting a buyer like a Charter school, private academy or maybe even an architecture and preservation trades program through CPS to educate young people on the value of preservation and provide restoration training, a skill sorely needed in Cincinnati.

The city needs to develop a national outreach marketing to the preservation community and promote Dayton Street and other Urban neighborhood preservation opportunities.

Dayton Street is experiencing a slow but steady renaissance and the city must stop hindering that with roadblocks and instead provide needed incentive. Its time to grow our city tax base .

I would encourage the Dayton Street Neighborhood to sponsor a  multi-home, home tour next year and fully promote their great neighborhood. 


1 comment:

McEwan said...

A Dayton St. home tour is a GREAT idea!