Big things are happening on the eastern fringe of downtown Cincinnati. Originally an industrial area in the 1800's, many of the obsolete factories and warehouses that stood in the area fell victim to I-71 or were replaced by parking lots. A handful carried on as low rent office space or simply stood vacant. But since 1998, nearly a dozen old buildings around downtown have been redeveloped into apartments, including prominent landmarks such as Shillito's Department Store and the Applied Sciences Building.
Two large buildings within sight of each other on downtown's
eastern edge, the Power Building and the Krippendorf Building, are currently
being redeveloped with each to house about 100 apartment units. On
the same block as the Krippendorf Building, a new 16 floor apartment building
and garage is under construction to be known as the Broadway Tower.
This represents a dramatic turnaround for the area, which has stagnated
for decades, and bids well for new construction on various nearby parking
Looking south at the Krippendorf Building, with Sycamore St. and St. Xavier Church at right. [Click Here for larger version]
The motley appearance of the Krippendorf Building can
be attributed to the many additions and modifications that have been made
to it in the last 100 years. Prior to the current rehabilitation,
there was no obvious front entrance, and the new front plaza was a parking
lot where a smaller building obviously once stood. But what's
with that solo window in the red wall?!
The Power Building
June 2002 view of the Power Building, with Sycamore St. at center and right. [Click Here for larger photo]
The Power Building has stood vacant since 1996, when planning
began for its redevelopment. The building's exterior deteriorated
during that period, and courtesy of the view provided by the large parking
lot that it neighbors, it became the most conspicuous vacant building in
all of downtown. So it was a great relief after so much talking when
work actually began in 2001, and hopefully the project will be a success.
View of the Krippendorf Building, Taco Casa, and the site of the new Broadway Tower. [ Click Here for larger version]
The Broadway Tower is somewhat unexpected, having materialized
before apartment towers planned for the more desirable 7th & Vine and
west 4th St. addresses. The location is unlikely, as it is on the
eastern edge of downtown and in a spot with no established neighborhood.
It appears as though the Broadway Tower happened before the more obvious
locations simply because the various parcels were more easily acquired
and at a lower cost.
UPSCALE TOWER PLANNED FOR DOWNTOWN
$20M apartment project slated for St. Xavier area
Andy Hemmer Cincinnati Business Courier Staff Reporter
The first residential tower to be built downtown in more than 20 years will be a $20 million apartment/parking complex on the central business district's eastern edge. Broadway Tower at St. Xavier Park is a partnership between Al Neyer Inc. and North American Properties. The firms plan to build a 16-story, 150-unit building featuring upscale apartments marketed to empty-nesters. The apartments will be built on top of a four-story, 400-car garage to be developed by the city in the spring.
The last residential tower to open downtown was One Lytle Place on the city's riverfront in 1979. Broadway Tower will be owned by the city and managed by North American. The tower will be built after construction of the garage is completed sometime next year. The facility has been designed to occupy almost the area bounded by Broadway, East Seventh, North and New streets, Marketing near the Procter & Gamble Co. headquarters and just east of the Krippendorf Building, another facility Al Neyer is converting into apartments in a neighborhood district Neyer dubbed St. Xavier Park. Officials from Al Neyer have been piecing together the Broadway Tower plan since first unveiling the St. Xavier Park concept five years ago and setting a goal of 300 new housing units in the neighborhood.
The plan began gaining steam a few months ago when Archiable Electric Co. agreed to sell its 12,000-square-foot New Street building to the city for $850,000, making the 150,000-square-foot Broadway Tower at least one-third bigger than an earlier design. Al Neyer, hired by the city to design and build both the $8 million garage and the tower, was also tapped to conduct negotiations on behalf of the city for the purchase of the Archiable facility and a smaller building on the site housing the Taco Casa Restaurant. The deal gave ANI "air rights" to develop Broadway Tower above the garage.
With the Archiable parcel in hand, Al Neyer plans to start construction of the garage this spring, once the Archiable building is demolished and environmental studies are completed, said Rick Kimbler, ANI's vice president of multifamily markets and retail.
The garage will require nine to 12 months to complete. A strip of street-level commercial space along Broadway will also be available through Neyer's retail partner, Midland Atlantic Properties of Kenwood, which has been hired as leasing agent.
Archiable Electric is moving to an existing building in Fairfax where it will rent 10,000 square feet, said president Jim Schroth. "We expect to, because we haven't closed yet," said Schroth, referring to the building sale. Archiable employs 60, has been in business since 1919 and at the site since 1938.
Broadway Tower will offer options from studios to two-bedroom units with a den. Apartments will measure between 650 square feet and 1,400 square feet. A rent schedule has not been finalized.
"We've pushed the envelope a little bit with a little larger units than what we've done at the Krippendorf or at the East Eighth Lofts," said Kimbler, ticking off a few other nearby components of Neyer's St. Xavier Park. "The intent is to try to have more of an appeal to the empty-nester, the mover of choice, vs. the younger profile. By offering some alternative product we can try to appeal to everyone."
Twenty years probably won't lapse between Broadway Tower and the next residential tower plotted downtown. Towne Properties plans to build a 16-story apartment/condo hybrid at Seventh and Vine streets. Al Neyer's role at Broadway Tower is builder/developer. Recruiting tenants and signing leases is the responsibility of Tony Hobson, vice president of North American Properties. Hobson and officials from Neyer lauded the decision by the city of Cincinnati to build a parking garage at the site, owned by the city and holding a surface parking lot managed by Central Parking System. "The city has been an invaluable partner throughout the whole process. They've used the garage as a catalyst for economic development, which is a very wise investment of public resources," Hobson said. North American Properties manages about 1,000 housing units.
The only piece of the city block earmarked for Broadway Tower that isn't yet included in the plan is a small building at North and New streets which is currently housing the Taco Casa Restaurant and a few apartments. The Kennedy family of Cincinnati, owners of Taco Casa and the building, have not yet agreed to sell, Kimbler said, but the developers haven't given up. Until that happens, ANI architects have been able to design the project around the Kennedys' slice of the 0.75-acre block.
Looking up Sycamore St., with St. Xavier Church at left and the Power Building two blocks north. [Click Here for larger version]
Assuming that the current projects are successful, the future looks good for this area, which is the the site of the largest and most embarrassing downtown parking lots. The lot closest in the above photo was the original site of Xavier University, which moved to a new campus on Victory Parkway in the early 1920's. The building was then occupied by St. Xavier High School, which itself moved to its present Finneytown site in 1958. The high school still subsidizes its tuition with money generated by this parking lot, and the church still uses it for parking, complicating efforts to develop it. It is situations such as this that make projects in old American cities like Cincinnati so difficult.
That said, what would have been incredibly risky projects
during the strong economy of just five years ago are now safe bets for
private developers during the current uncertain economic times. So
when the economy picks back up, it is reasonable to assume that apartment
construction will continue, at the very least, at its current pace.
These recent successes should serve as a sharp retort to all those who
predicted a Detroit-like exodus of downtown Cincinnati in the middle 1990's
when a number of long time retailers closed. Detractors continue
to fixate on the high profile redevelopment sagas of Fountain Square West,
the McAlpin's site, and more recently the Nordstrom's Department Store
site, while ignoring high profile successes such as the Aronoff Center,
Union Terminal redevelopment, and Main St. in Over-The-Rhine.
Reds Stadium / Riverfront Development
2. Contemporary Arts Center
3. Power Building / Krippendorf Building / 7th & Broadway Garage
4. 6th & Race Apartments
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