Thursday, January 8, 2009

West End buildings doomed

A group of West End buildings is doomed, so you should go say your goodbyes as soon as possible.

Permits are in route to demolish the buildings at , all built between 1845 and 1880.

The structures have had their utlities shut off for several years, and the grounds have become centers for drug sales, prostitution, and illegal dumping.*

Criminal cases on 833-837 Bank Street, now owned by Charles Reed, have been pending since at least 2004, but none has ever been filed.

In fact, on several occasions, orders against Reed have been closed out and new ones started -- delaying compliance by nearly a year each time.

West End Day Care, owner of 839 Bank Street, was found not to be in compliance in housing court and was entered into a diversion program.

A promised day care for the four lots further delayed compliance, and, of course, that's not going to happen. Neither are later plans by West End Day Care for residential re-use.

All of this leads to four demolitions, meaning that something in the City's code enforcement policy is broken.

* 835 Bank Street was featured as "Blight of the Week" in the 10/17/02 edition of CityBeat. 837 Bank Street appeared in the 11/27/02 edition.


Paul Wilham said...

As someone with 20 years directly involved in restoring historic buildings, I have been by these buildings before and they are all restorable. I just sent an email to the National Trust for Historic Preservation seeking them to be placed on their "911 list" for endangered properties and I am emailing everyone I know today, as well as city council members to see if this senseless demolition can be stopped and I encourage everyone else to do so as well.

Since the owners obviously don't care about these properties I dont see why the city couldn't strike a compromise where they could be donated to an organization that could 'hold' them and find owners.

These houses are a block from Dayton street where homes are worth 150-300K and it makes no sense to tear these down. Someone at the city need to be put on a hot seat and we need an investigation into the way city services work.This would not be tolerated in any other major city!

JFD said...

Before anyone considers these beauties for rehab/restoration; they need to understand Crossroads Church from Oakley, still plans on imposing their social service mega-mall across the street.

Paul Wilham said...

JFD your point is taken but I'd like to point out that I've been in a lot of cities where you will find million dollar townhouses across the street from homeless shelters. "Social Experiments" like Crossroads ill concieved plans come and go, but historic architecture can last forever. Trust me there are many people who would have no problem restoring and living in these homes in spite of what will be across the street.

Anonymous said...

Yeah right, this makes complete sense... the buildings' owner is the problem so tear down the buildings.
Why can't the properties be taken away from the criminal owner, like an unfit parent can have their own children taken away, and the criminal case against the owner can continue thus setting the property free to be saved and not torn down.
Do something for once Mayor and Council... now.

Anonymous said...

This city is ridiculous -- treasures like this are what makes a place unique.

3 things immediately came to mind:

1)You're right, Kevin: clearly the system is broken -- and no one seems to give a damn.

2)The fact that "MALLORY" election signs are posted on these buildings is surreal.

3)If "eminent domain" can be used by city and state governments for projects like a marina on the "gold coast" in NJ -- why the heck can't it be used in situations like this? The owners clearly don't care about these places -- and they've got all kinds of code violations and court cases to prove it. WHY DOESN'T THE DAMN CITY JUST TAKE THE PROPERTY instead of tearing it down?

I'm learning to hate Cinti more and more each day.

Kevin LeMaster said...

Thanks, Paul. I was hoping you were aware of the buildings from your visits to Dayton Street.

I only hope that someone with the ability to do something about this broken system is reading. The fact that I now have an 8-week backlog of "Wrecking Cincinnati" entries speaks to the teardown mentality that's making more and more streets in this City look like parts of Detroit.

Jason said...

Paul is there anything that others can do to help you with this effort? I'd like to help in any way possible. I can't believe they are just so willing to get rid of historic structures like this at the drop of a hat!

Paul Wilham said...

Jason I started sending emails to councilpeople today asking them why the city is tearing down 4 historic properties and why no one at city legal or buildings seem to have an explaination as to why this is being allowed to happen, with no public input or oversite by teh council?.As well as why the system is so broken. It would be nice if the folks on Dayton Street would get together and maybe petition the city on this. It is ironic that 3cdc has hundreds of vacant boarded properties with prostitutes and drug dealers out front and the city is "OK" with that. There is a 'double standard" here on enforcement.

Randy Simes said...

They look to be in miserable condition. It's a real shame they have to go, and it's an even bigger shame to hear/see the lack of care these buildings were given over the years. What a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

The above attitude is the reason so much gets destroyed in this city. "It's a real shame they have to go". What a pessimistic, defeatist, wet noodle way of thinking. They do not "have to go". They are still here. There is still hope. If someone says the door is locked does that keep you from trying to see if it really is?

The city has done nothing all these years, but yet now they want to pay someone to tear them down? Why don't they pay someone to fix them up? Who approves or OK's a building to be torn down anyway?

Randy Simes said...

^That's not how I intended my comment to read. Basically I just think it is a shame they are probably going to get torn down. I certainly hope that they don't and will do as much as I can to help make sure of that, because you're right...we need a stronger will when it comes to this sort of thing.

Quim said...

Buying and restoring these buildings could be a real good PR move by CityLinkers.
They could be used for mgmt/staff housing, meetings & fundraisers, too.

Anonymous said...

Paul, I read some of the many replies in response to your postings on the Urban Ohio forum and Building Cincinnati. The responses were overwhelmingly in favor of saving these homes and many questioned the logic and demolition tactics employed by the City lately. You're certainly right about one thing: because of the weak economy, there is a huge spike in vacant/abandoned homes and the City is understandably concerned that these properties will soon be utilized by criminal elements for increased illegal activities. Instead of stepping up law enforcement against street crimes, (drug dealing, prostitution, gang activity and vandalism) they take the easy and wasteful approach of demolishing vacant houses thinking that criminals will then flee the area. Anyone our age can remember when New York City had one of the most virulent, out-of-control street crime environments in the nation. Regardless of your personal opinions towards former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the tough law and order advocate made the streets of New York safe again. All it takes is a serious commitment to deal with street crimes head-on and Cincinnati seems unwilling to confront it's criminal elements but almost eager to tear down any urban site which could provide a haven for thugs. It was and always will be the wrong way to deal with urban crime. When you tear down houses, the criminals merely move to other nearby locations to ply their illicit trades. Tear down an entire neighborhood and they will simply move to yet another, and the vicious cycle only repeats itself. You cannot demolish your way to a safe city. That is a short-sighted approach which ignores the root of the problem. Cincinnati had some ugly urban riots in 2001 largely along racial lines. However, by all accounts, the City has made a lot of progress since then in mending relations and today is led by Mike Mallory, a popular mayor who is also African-Amercan. A badly misguided approach to dealing with impoverished, largely minority populations, was part of the origins in inner-city areas for today's crime problems in the first place. Large numbers of people living in poverty were rounded up and concentrated in dense "projects". Just as prison incarceration hardens individuals by mingling them with other criminals-which often leads to increased criminal activity (not less) for released inmates, these massive low-income housing projects led to the rising urban criminal gang culture so prevasive in nearly every large American city today. Almost too late, housing officials came to realize that concentrating large numbers of low-income residents in these closed environments degraded rather than improved their quality of life. Now that Federal policy is becoming less hands-off, there's a narrow window of opportunity to find ways to empower residents in poor urban areas through education and job-skills training. Fully employed individuals have legitimate alternatives to engaging in criminal activities. The street crimes so prevelant in inner-American cities today are born from desperation and feelings of alienation and hopelessness. Because few opportunities exist for low-income inner-city residents to legitimately improve their lives, they turn to criminal activity as the only alternative available. That needs to change if we want our inner city areas to improve. I've long had a dream of empowering many younger residents in these areas by training those who are mechanically inclined in restoration construction trades, from restoration carpentry to masonry skills, to metal-working, electrician skills, HVAC, and plumbing skills. I called it collectively the "Restoration Corps". Using governmental funds that might have been wasted for more demolitions and incarcerations, a whole generation of inner city youth could learn to rebuild their neighborhoods one house and building at a time. I even sent a suggestion along these lines to the Obama transition team but disappointingly only received an automated reply.
In any event, losing these beautiful Italianates is a senseless PERMANENT solution to a TEMPORARY problem. The Dayton Street corridor is one of Cincinnati's unique and irreplaceable historic architectural treasures-common sense and a longer term approach to the neighborhood's problems have to take the place of the old, discredited urban renewal policies of the past. They don't built massive public housing towers anymore so why do they still demolish so many historic structures to "improve" urban neighborhoods as they tried and failed decades ago? A lot of American cities bemoan the fact that they destroyed their built heritage and with it lost their distinctive and unique identities. Those cities that had the good sense to preserve their past have reaped great financial rewards from those efforts. Preservation is good for neighborhoods, it is absolutely a "green" approach, and is very good for business. That is a proven fact by the National Trust's Main Street program. Why can't otherwise intelligent people grasp that fact? Paul, keep on trying, we cannot afford to give up now. I wish I could be there myself. John S.

Anonymous said...

John S....just for the record, our Mayor is Mark Mallory and he is not as popular as you think. As for as council, well they would rather pass more money into tearing down buildings than find other ways to fix the buildings up. My question, since the properties are owned by someone, I would assume the costs to demo the building would be placed as a lien on the property owners. Money which the City will never see again and pretty much the empty lots will stay just that..empty lots. Paul, there are MANY who agree with your feelings on tearing down these buildings..problem is trying to get the attention or support of a council member who agrees. I love this City and I hate it at times in the same breath. My 1890 house is being restored for another 100 years of life--it will be here long after the current administration is gone. Shame of it all? We elected these folks.

JFD said...

"Buying and restoring these buildings could be a real good PR move by CityLinkers."

It doesn't really matter what face you paint on that dog with PR; it's still a dog, and the people pushing CL are still corrupt, (incuding and especially, Brian Tome).

Paul Wilham said...

I sent an email to the mayors office today asking for the mayors "official" position on these demolitions. I also posted the entire text of my email request on my blog. It should be noted that on the Mayors website it talks about his "West End" roots.

"Mayor Mallory is a life-long Cincinnatian, born and raised in the West End."

I will be interested to see what he thinks of his own city's wanting to bulldoze his old neighborhood? "IF", I get a response I wil post it on my blog. If anyopne else wants to email him and express your opinions I would encourage it. Email:

Anonymous said...

These are still quoted as being HSTORIC DISTICTS; there are more than one in the area of old Millionaire's Row. Yes the area is impacted. Some owners/landlords have been very helpful in reaching out and connecting with community on basic levels to make it better.
Yes, many sites and even peoples' hopes are depressed here. Community Revitalization Association (formerly Miami Purchase) has stated they are working with CMHA with properties that can be demolished and/or redeveloped. Just some of the facts within the neighborhood, along with others already posted.

This is good fodder for a session,
Tomorrow, to be held at 1202 Linn Street, about West End and Community Driven Crime Control (11AM to 12 Noon in the conference room) should anyone care to attend.
Also, good topic for the community council and neighborhood association to receive. No letters on this has been sent to either group. Will check the city to see about notifications.

Jenny Edwards

Anonymous said...

This is NOT a City ordered demo, the owner Mr. Reed filed the permit

Anonymous said...

Doesn't he have to go through the city in order to get the demo permit? The city either says yes or no right?This owner should forfeit his privilege to own property for failing to maintain them and letting them fall into disrepair. A property owner should not be able to tear down their property - as it is they could tear it down even out of spite. That's giving too much power to the owner that might be unintelligent. And there is nothing worse than unintelligent people making decisions that affect the rest of the city.

Randy Simes said...

A property owner should maintain the right to tear down buildings on their property, but I feel that they forfeit those rights when they break the law and refuse to maintain their property.

The City should fine this guy out the wazoo or take his property from him as it is clearly blighted. They could then donate or auction the building off to those interested in maintaining and rehabilitating the structures.

Anonymous said...

The owner DOES have to go through the City and did apply for a permit. Which he did, which the City approved. I believe the City is required to notify the neighborhood council via a letter as well which they can then object to the demo (at least that is how it works in our Cincinnati neighborhood). Whenever someone applies for a permit like this or for example intall a fence taller than the max allowed, the neighborhood councils are supposed to be notified so they can weigh in on the decision.
I do agree that if the property is not being maintained, the owner should be fine and the property should be taken from them and sold to someone who will fix the place up. Kevin did a great article on a neighbor of mine who bought a home in lower Price Hill at a City auction for I believe about $500 and was assessed in 2007 for $81,000 His home is another PERFECT example of what the City should be supporting.

Anonymous said...

That is the article I was referring to in my previous post...

Paul Wilham said...

The mere fact that the city allows a property owner to pull a demolition permit is an example of why the system is broken.

In most cities, demolition MUST be done by a liscened Demolition Contractor who has both insurance and a bond on file with the city. Private property owners lack the skills and equipment to properly demo a house. In fact I've watched one near our house come down 'Slooowly' over the last two months and it was a safety hazard the whole time. Properties are too close to allow an unskilled person to demolish a house and this points to why the system is broken.

I also was informed that someone has filed a complaint regarding the demo permit and some neighborhood groups may not have been properly notified. So he may not be able to demo yet?

Anonymous said...

From the way it looks, the Historic Pre. is objecting. THe community council can probably put a stop to this right away too by objecting. I will send you a private message with my contact info and who I talked to.

Anonymous said...

...A slight clarification from a couple entries up. "A property owner should not be able to tear down their property." Nice point, better meaning was extracted from the sentence than I intended. Whether a demo is done by a property owner literally or by a licensed contractor hired by the property owner it should not be up to the property owner to decide. On one hand it sounds like there are checks in place. On the other hand the city tears things down left and right after letting them fall into decay or even if they are in fixable shape. I know of several significant properties that desperately need to be taken away from their "owners" now. I am truly reluctant to bring their current early state of blight to the attention of the city/inspectors for fear it would jeopardize the buildings and the city would just come and tear them down or the owners would tear them down just to get the city off their back. It has happened before. Property owners should not have that much power. It would be nice to have more confidence in ones own city. And what if your community council could care less? I do not know what to do. At least these buildings on Bank Street have a louder voice behind them.

Anonymous said...

First, I HIGHLY doubt your neighborhood council could "care less"...if they do, its time for you to get involved and VOTE them out. But most Cincinati neighborhood councils have boards ran by residents who live in the neighborhoods and care very deeply, otherwise they would not volunteer all their time for free. I did find out yesterday and (I am checking with someone else to clarify) that neighborhood councils DO get notified of permits for zoning issues but NOT for demo permits. IF that is factual, it needs to be changed immediately. Some neighborhoods DO get notified because they have development corps for properties in their neighborhood, but what about those neighborhoods which dont have the man power to organize such a group? Bottom line is the City needs to inform the neighborhood councils and take them more seriously so those councils can take action to preserve our communities against issues such as these.

Quim said...

"A property owner should not be able to tear down their property."
That is insane.

Anonymous said...

People who purchase property, who do nothing to maintain it, let it fall into disrepair and are then able to pull a demo permit is wrong, I agree, a property owner should not have the ability to - have their property torn down especially if it is due to lack of maintenance. If they want to build something deemed better - fine, go down that road. If they can't handle keeping a place up they have no business being there. They should look into renting.
There is something wrong when someone can buy a building that is one hundred years old or older, solid as a rock, way older than the person that bought it, hold title to it for maybe a fraction of time and be the one who decides it will no longer be a part of the city, directly affecting neighbors/future neighbors and the over all fabric of the city. Maybe the city would be better off without the place, maybe not, but who are they to make that kind of decision by themselves. Not everyone is cut out to be a property owner.
What is insane is generally giving too much power to beings without brains.

Kevin LeMaster said...

I'm glad to see so much passion and so many ideas.

There has to be a balance between property rights and the goals of a "me, me, me" society. I had several discussions about this tonight.

I believe that people have a responsibility to maintain property that they obtain to the standards that were there when they got them. If they have a plan to improve the property, then they should be given the right to go forward. Neglecting the property to the point that it has to be abated by the city should NOT be a right.

Several people have brought up the point of how that affects the neighbors, and I wholeheartedly agree.

This City has only a limited number of buildings built around 1845, 1860 or 1875. It part of the charm that people who visit recognize right away. Once that's lost, what do we have left? This is an asset we can use to capture investment, and most of the people around here don't even seem to care.

Quim said...

Frankly, I think the city does have the right to take over buildings that sit untouched for years and even friggin' decades because it blights the community and is a drag on everybody.
It sounds like the owners of these properties want to tear the buildings down just to relieve themselves of any possible liability.
It's gotta be cheaper to sell 'em than tear 'em down.
Then again, the owners might have some wonderful new plans for the properties (doubt it).
I'm sure the area was lovely before developers came in and started building those dang buildings in the mid 1800s.

Anonymous said...

It was probably loveliest before the cancer, named humans, invaded.

Anonymous said...

Dear All:
Spoke with Mr. Minnehan and was told that permits, etc. are on line and can be looked up. As far as he knew "not as a rule" were permit matters sent to community councils. He's checking to see if there is a rule to this. Posing to DSNA whether this is a matter where we could make an overall request for the Historic District; will bring to WECC's exec committee tomorrow night.

Kevin LeMaster said...

^ Thank you!

BTW, Mr. Minihan is correct. However, the permit data is sketchy and not often updated. It is NOT a good source for community councils.

Anonymous said...

First, I'd like to start by saying that I used to live at 931 Dayton and I am currently relocating from Columbus back to the West End next to 'the spot' over by McMicken and Mohawk, there is no place like home, and that is thankfully a true statement because my home is in Cincinnati! A city with a landscape such as ours, with so much antiquity on every street must be preserved!

Beyond that I love the area for all there is to do there, the Gallery hops, cool people, neighborhood grill outs and the shows at the Mockbee,
I am moving back into what most consider the 'Ghetto' in Cincy, because someone has to rent that property before it's allowed to waste away like some of the building's I've seen,

On Dayton, the houses next to ours were beautiful old Mansions, and they were over-run with black mold, I went inside them, I don't think there was much of anything salvageable but I could be mistaken,
at any rate, these buildings on Bank, does any one know if black mold is to blame?

Randy Simes said...

I got some additional information from the City that can be read here:

Kevin LeMaster said...

Thanks, Randy!

John S. said...

"On Dayton,(St.) the houses next to ours were beautiful old Mansions, and they were over-run with black mold, I went inside them, I don't think there was much of anything salvageable but I could be mistaken,
at any rate, these buildings on Bank, does any one know if black mold is to blame?"

Black mold can be a serious issue but fortunately it is one that can be remedied with proper treatment. Nearly every structure damaged by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans later was found to have mold problems. For those structures deemed salvagable, removal of plaster/sheetrock followed by drying and mold-destroying chemical treatment of structural framing rendered these surfaces ready for reconstruction. Unless a building is full of mold covered surfaces, (and not all mold species, including some which are black, are known to be bio-hazards) that alone should not be the sole criteria used to justify demolition. The often heard and repeated statement, "too far gone to save", is highly subjective and means very different things to many different people. If the money and willingness are there, very few structures are truly too far gone to save. Since I've worked in historic restoration construction for many years, the considerable first hand experience and knowledge gained have taught me that this fact is true. Even severely fire- damaged structures have been brought back to pristine condition when people were willing to take on the challenge.

Restoration of the Bank Street structures is certainly feasible so long as the walls are still standing, but finding anyone willing to invest their money in them may be an impossible challenge in today's tough economic environment.

Then there's the long history of resistance and intransigence by the property owners. Without the property owners' cooperation, even the most significant historic landmark might eventually be lost.

The current reality of demolition permits already having been issued in this case greatly narrows the window of opportunity to save any of the Bank Street structures. Has anyone tried to contact and negotiate with the property owners? Usually such neogtiations are successful only when there is a monetary incentive/advantage demonstrated. If there had been any prior appreciation for their historical or architectural value, they wouldn't be in such deplorable condition.

Over the years, Bank Street has surrendered almost all of its old densely built streetscape it once shared with the adjacent historic neighborhood, to the wrecking ball. These few endangered buildings are vestiges and reminders of Bank Street's vivid past when the area was then a vital part of early Cincinnati. Properly restored, they could serve as an attractive gateway entry point to more intact historic streets in the Dayton St. corridor. In turn, their restoration would help create an atmosphere for more interest and investment in this long-neglected part of the City and as a component in a broader revitalization of the West End District. The old negative, wasteful urban practices of the past truly deserve to be re-examined and changed in our greener, more environmentally conscious times of the 21st Century. "Urban Renewal" as understood today should clearly mean that old buildings can be recycled too! John S.

Kevin LeMaster said...

^ Thank you for such a thoughtful, well-written response.

cynthia said...

i just stumbled across this site looking for something else and am very interested in all the comments posted. i am a relative new-comer to cincinnati from chicago, and my children and i reside just a block or so away from the houses on bank street. when i walk through the community i am amazed at the many beautiful structures that are vacant and crumbling and it is quite frustrating, because i can visualize the community as being quite exciting and vibrant and would love to be a participant in its restoration. i have a personal vision of establishing a business in this community despite what the odds and crime reports and my current state of finances would recommend...but i believe it can be done, not sure how, but would love to have some input about obtaining and restoring some of these wonderful properties when you have extremely limited resources. it seems to me that it makes more sense to put them into the hands of people who would be willing to put the time and energy into re-creating them than to just continue to let them disintegrate or become dangerous havens for the negative activity i see from my window everyday. i know that there are others like me...

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