Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tough Talk about why we must stop CPS demo of 217 Clifton

Cincinnati Public Schools will appear at an Appeals Hearing Monday because of a contest to demolition of 217 Clifton. If one looks at this structure one can see it is reasonably intact and  restorable. In fact, with its side colonnade this would make a lovely single family home which would be highly desired as most structures in OTR are far larger and don't lend themselves to single family.

If one looks at the aerial photo of the site you can see the building in question and you will note the large paved expanse between the school and this building. The school board guidelines for construction in an urban neighborhood calls for 'dual use' of areas like this as drop off/pick up  in morning and evening with playground use in during the day. So CPS is not following its own guidelines and recommendations regarding school design and planning in a urban neighborhood

So why do this you ask? Why spend taxpayer dollars tearing down a viable structure to build a playground that would, at best, see minimal use? I believe that this is a determined and calculated effort by the school board of CPS and with the help of certain city officials to see that OTR is 'delisted' as National Historic District.

WHY? Economics. If OTR is de-listed certain roadblocks in the eyes of the CPS board are lifted both now and in the future. It is easier to perform demolitions,and easier to make modifications to existing buildings. In short, cheaper in the long run for them to do business. They have not considered that when Federal dollars are in  use they still would need a section 106 review but since no alarm has been sounded in the past by preservationists or the city Urban Conservators including our present Urban Conservator, Larry Harris who does not hold a degree, or training, in Historic preservation. Clearly, there are people in city inspections who are "anti preservation" and those of us know who those inspectors and their managers are because we deal with them every day.

None of these people fully understand the economic and image considerations that the de-listing of OTR would bring upon this city.

To the CPS School Board, to the City Council, to our 'esteemed' Urban Conservator, to Mr. Minhan and Mr Ghosh, the members of the Nuisance Board and all those city officials who think the de-listing of OTR is "No big deal".

Remember those 'pesky riots' back in 2001? Remember when Cincinnati was the source of national ridicule? When this city was described in the national press as racist and backwards and corrupt? A second class "rust belt" city well on its way to becoming the NEXT DETROIT?

Imagine the comparison that would be made if one of the largest historic districts in the country was de-listed? Imagine all the national press about the 'slow death' of Cincinnati, the loss of the battle against decline. The press won't be showing the shiny buildings by the waterfront, or those nice 3CDC condo success stories they will be showing the abandoned streets of OTR.  To CPS they will be showing the prostitutes and pimps and drug dealers near your precious schools. They will lament the fact that due to the incompentence and mismanagement by city officials, CPS, and the city council, the city is near bankrupt and can't afford to provide proper Police and Fire protection.

To 3CDC do you have spare mil or two in your annual budget? Because if OTR is delisted it means you are going to need a preservation staff and a lot more legal hours spent getting individual properties on the national register so you can qualify for those federal tax credits. I would not expect our Urban Conservator to have time to do it, nor the qualifications. An office that should be staffed with 6 people is only staffed with two and there is a serious lack of "preservation talent" there.

Consider the cost and logistics of "gerrymandering" several new smaller national historic districts in OTR , probably Pendleton, Findlay-Brewery, West end etc. assuming you can design them in such a way that you have enough 'historic stock" to meet the qualifiers and you have to have new historic narratives that would pass muster with national. There will be thousands of hours of updated research to do, not to mention all the individual nominations people will be filing for to protect their financial investment. City officials will be unprepared for that. And you will still have holes on unrestricted redevelopment nearby.

But the narrative will already have been written, "Cincinnati , the FAILURE, the city so corrupt, so inept, that the 'good ole boy' network couldn't come back after those riots".

Maybe thats the plan? We know this city is addicted to federal money to pay the bloated salaries and lovely pensions of city employees. We know this city council is paid more than cities 4 times their size and that cities like Indianapolis manages with part time councils without offices and staff. Maybe thats the plan? Let OTR decay and fall down so you can get lots of Federal "Urban Renewal" money.. Maybe a new Queensgate? Another grand failure, another neighborhood like Kenyon Barr demolished and blacks displaced so you can perpetuate that federal money gravy train and keep your fat pensions?

I'd like to know where the Civic Pride is? It strikes me that city officials are "ashamed" of OTR, are ashamed of what it respresents, that you wish it would just "go away' and people would forget about 2001. I certainly am not seeing the African American Community doing anything to save, or preserve, OTR. The NAACP complains about everything but I don't really see them trying to save OTR, just complaining. Are you "ashamed" too, would middle and upper income African Americans like to forget OTR too?. You never counted on people actually moving back after those riots did you? Upset your plans for more federal Urban Renewal/demo money didn't it?

The 10 year anniversary of the riots is here next year. If you read the blogs, there are a lot of outside agitators who plan on coming to Cincinnati next year with the intent to cause trouble. They don't live here, and they certainly don't care about Cincinnati. It is just a way to forward their own personal agendas and have a forum, and excuse, to do so.

City officials are kidding themselves if they do not think there will be riot anniversary stories written about Cincinnati next year by the national press.

That is why 217 Clifton is important, because we can write that narrative.  It can be a story of how OTR bounced back from bad times, how people cooperated, how the city got behind preservation as an economic development tool. How we saved a historic neighborhood and made it a better place. OR, it can be the narrative the press will write. An uncaring, corruption filled, city goverment addicted to federal funds that failed to turn around OTR, one of the most intact historic areas in the entire United States, because of its' own personal agenda and incompetence.

217 Clifton is important people. It's important we save it. It's important because, if we lose much more. Those people who view OTR for its land value, will make the case for de-listing to eliminate the roadblocks they see to making a fast buck. Trust me there is a hidden agenda here.

The preservation community, EVERYWHERE in this city needs to complain and complain loudly. This building is more important that you realize because it may well write the story of Cincinnati.

1 comment:

Caroline said...

And this post is why I love your blog. You tell it like it is, and see past all the politics. Good work!