If you had to make a call to city hall yesterday you probably got the switchboard as Preservationist from Cincinnati and several other states swamped city phone lines in an attempt to stop the demolition of 142 McMicken by Cincinnati Public Schools.
In fact this coordinated effort may point to a "new day", for Preservation in Cincinnati. As one preservationist wrote "We are not sitting here and taking this crap anymore, the back room deals are stopping and stopping now"!
In fact Cincinnati City and CPS officials are finding themselves fighting a "Virtual Army" of preservationists as OTR Foundation was joined by Preservationist from West End, Knox Hill, Westwood, Avondale and preservationist from several states who are utilizing every possible tactic to save this 4 story building at 142 McMickens. Coordinator of the "No more demolitions in OTR and West End " reported she had thousands of hits on their facebook page and indeed if you were on facebook and twitter yesterday this was a major topic as it was on several blogs.
Not to be outdone the controversy generated articles in Both the Enquirer and Business Journal and camera crews were on site yesterday in Over the Rhine covering this developing story. Local Preservationist who have been working with CPS for months breathed a sigh of relief to learn that CPS was donating two properties to 3CDC for redevelopment but were shocked to learn a demo permit was pulled for 142 McMicken a building that they have publicly stated several times would not be demolished.
In fact the vote taken by the Cincinnati School Board may violate state ethics and sunshine laws as it was not set as an agenda item and involves an asset of the corporation.. Preservationist have contacted the State Attorney General office and the State Ethics Commission asking for an investigation.
Also at the center of controversy is the way CPS 'skirted' the Historic Commission by getting the city to agree to an "emergency demo order" which 'circumvents' a public hearing process since the building lies in a designated historic district. Preservationists are trying to determine if funds being used involve any federal fund, as that should trigger a section 106 review.
The demo crew on site yesterday were observed tearing off the Cornice of the building without following proper federal Lead abatement regulations and Preservationist are responding by contacting the EPA, OSHA and Health Department. Emails have been sent to Ed Cunningham requesting a stop work order be issued due to failure to follow proper Federal Lead Abatement rules enacted earlier this year which would among other things require the contractor to place tarps on the building, Have "clean room' protocols and have a certified lead abatement person on site to supervise the containment.
In fact someone has stepped forward to buy the building which CPS wants demoed to make a 'truck driveway' to get vehicles to the school site. Preservationist are lobbying, Council Members to get a stop work order issued until it can be determined if the school board vote was legal. Preservationist are also hoping that the Attorney General may seek a court order to stop demolition.
In fact, some Preservationists are talking about chaining themselves or occupying the building today if efforts fail.
One of my sources in city government tells me that city officials were not prepared yesterday for the concerted Preservation attack they faced yesterday.
Even if 142 McMicken does fall, city and CPS officials may still find themselves being investigated and it clearly marks a serious change in tactics by the preservation community who in the past have not been as coordinated in their efforts to save buildings. As one preservationist said yesterday "the days of saying please are over, and those who do not support Preservation in Cincinnati will find themselves voted out in upcoming elections."