Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Endangered Fairmount: Queen City Ave Cluster

Yesterday, we talked about the remarkable Vitt and Stermer Art Deco building and I received hundreds of email not only from preservationists across this country but from as Far away as England and New Zealand  about that pending travesty. Today we shift gears and we are back to Victorians and today this block of properties is known as the "Queen City Avenue Cluster"  as it is known on the last city historic building inventory completed in 2003!

Intact buildings, very restorable, no wonder why this block is historic eligible!
This block listed as a "potentially historic cluster" is from 1811-1817 Queen City. It  consists of  1811 Queen City ,an Italianate mixed use 15 room commercial storefront with adjacent vacant lot, 1813 Queen City and 11 room Second empire detached townhouse, 1815 Queen City, a 13 room Second Empire detached townhouse and 1815 Queen City, also a 13 room Second Empire townhouse.

This was obviously an upscale area when built given the "High Style" French Second empire homes and the Finely detailed Italianate commercial buildings and I am sure those who built it back then would be shocked at the idea of its demolition. So how did it get this way you ask? SIMPLE. The city of Cincinnati did it. After WW2 this became a largely catholic, neighborhood of people of Italian or Irish decent. The homes were well kept the children respectful and life centered around the church. It was a neighborhood, it was a community. After the 2001 riots in Over the Rhine, the city had a problem and they needed to "decentralize' that problem. The "portability" of section 8 vouchers solved that and the city essentially "dumped' their problems on the West side, and that and the rise in crime that occurred simply drove out a viable community.. The city has spend millions on the "gentrification" of OTR of course OTR has lost 50 percent of its housing stock over the years and its status as "historic" teeters in the balance. Basically the city moved its "blight" problem, out of OTR to Fairmount and now with that and clearly "targeted enforcement" by city inspectors since 2007, writing VBML and condemn orders created a new "blight scenario" so they can get MORE federal money and under the guise of being "green", do yet another "urban renewal' project, forcing the poor out again and getting millions to move them elsewhere RATHER than actually fix the problem through better education, real job opportunity and greater responsibility from those on assistance. Oh and of course, the city Bond rating, lets not forget that.

Nicely detailed brick work, 2nd story arched windows and great brackets here.
In their current vacant state ,these properties have a combined assessment of 118,470.00  , a check of city records indicate no current cases against these properties by city inspections .

A"The twins' as I call them would be million dollar mansions in any major city!
This potentially historic cluster will be demolished by MSD if nothing is down to save it for a 'glorified drainage ditch " and we all know know the "big plan" is to being in developers to build across from it. If these houses are demolished they will NEVER be on the tax roles again and they won't generate any sewer or water tax income, phone bills, or electric bills. ZERO.

When you have detail like this your restoration costs are greatly reduced.
If these four structures were restored as part of a comprehensive redevelopment plan that utilizes Historic property as an economic development tool they might have an initial value of 300,000.00 a piece. At that rate over a 10 year period these four properties would generate over $244,000 in property taxes for the city.. People would be employed in restoration, materials purchased as part of that restoration would help stimulate the local economy. They would be occupied meaning the families that lived there would also pay income tax. Drop a block like this in Brooklyn, Charleston or Chicago and you are looking at millions of dollars even in its current state Cincinnati government has "No vision" only  "Tunnel vision" that involved federal handouts and a bulldozer, a FAILED Urban renewal model that will soon make us look more like DETROIT!

Real numbers and real common sense. Not MSD demolition plan and unproven "land scheme" redevelopment hinging on the premise that you build a ditch and builders in this bad economy will suddenly flock to the area to build upscale housing.

Even if you could care less about Old Houses, EDUCATE yourself as to what these 'current hot idea concepts' that MSD is planning means to your bottom dollar and this city's tax base. Tell MSD to get back to common sense proposals that utilize historic preservation as an economic development tool and DITCH the DITCH! daylight Lick Run Below Grand where it won't destroy an entire Historic Town. The "New Urbanist  crap" that will replace it will not be Historic Fairmount!


Quimbob said...

That area has kinda been relegated to "pass thru" status by west side commuters. It's been run down since at least the 80s. It's kind of Gran Prix time at rush hour.
I really can't imagine anybody wanting to invest in anything upscale on that stretch as a rehab or "new urbanist" stuff given the car blight.

Neil said...

I agree completely with your thesis, but in terms of the area being indirectly killed by the riots, that's not correct. The section 8 vouchers affected Price Hill (combined with a fake Lease Option Scam run by a series of slum lords) and Westwood, not Fairmont which was already a bit rough. I remember going through there in the 90s and it wasn't a good part of town then either. I do remember Price Hill being a stable working class neighborhood though.

What turned down Fairmont as I understand it was the notorious reputation of English Woods (now demolished) and the Fay Apartments. This chased away a lot of people from the hood and left it to rot as a Ghetto. Shame because the architecture is world class Victorian. Typical Cincinnati :P.

Paul Wilham said...

I've been doing a bit of study regarding the area. Looking at assessment records the average home in that area as assessed in the 55-100K in 2000.

It was only after the riots that there was a serious influx of section 8 after that and after 2002-3 S. Fairmount held the dubious distinction of housing more section 8 properties than any area of the city.

As for the traffic. The street scape plans I've seen involve the reduction of the street to 2 lanes only at all times, a bumped out parking area at the beginning and end of the block and the addition of a bike lane. They will have brick crossways which will slow down traffic and there are also high end streetlights, etc (very Hyde Park).

The actual speed limit on that stretch is 30MPH and I expect the lights will be re-timed and a lot of tickets written to slow the traffic down. Remember the city hopes to make money of this so I expect some pretty aggressive traffic enforcement

I guess the "theory' is that that will slow down traffic. I suspect after they have to tear both streets up for the sewer work people will have found a new way home.