Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Northside business district taking first steps toward National Register

The Northside Business Association (NBA) is taking its first steps toward getting the neighborhood business district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and NBA president Bruce Demske says it's "pretty much a lock" that his group will pursue it.

At a meeting on August 3, Cincinnati Preservation Association preservation director Margo Warminski gave the NBA a basic overview of the designation process.

"She has been very helpful," says NBA president Bruce Demske. "Based on what I've heard so far, I would say that adding the Northside Historic Business District to the National Register is attainable."

A local historic district already exists – along Spring Grove Avenue from Cooper Street to Hamilton Avenue and Hamilton Avenue from Knowlton's Corner to Hobart Street – which the City designated in 1982.

Warminski says that the local historic district was certified by the Ohio Historic Preservation Office (OHPO) – making it eligible for federal and Ohio Historic Preservation tax credits – but there are problems with the way it was established.

"The district has strange boundaries," she says. "It goes only 200 feet deep on either side of the street, so only portions of parcels are included. So it would be hard to use the credits for some buildings."

"Our business district is of limited length and there are several buildings which could benefit from rehabilitation," Demske says. "This will be one more factor that could cause existing owners to undertake rehabilitation projects or building purchasers to pursue building they may not have been interested in otherwise."

Warminski says that a listing on the National Register could help clean up those boundaries, although those boundaries have yet to be decided.

"They could also take in some key buildings that are presently left out, such as the former railroad building – the Former Myron Johnson Lumber – next to American Can, which I've heard the developers may be interested in using for their office, and the recently endangered 1608 Hoffner Street," she says.

1608 Hoffner Street, declared a public nuisance in June, has recently had its demolition put on hold.

Demske says that the NBA will consider extending the City's local historic district for any application for the National Register, including parts of Hoffner Street extending down to Apple Street.

Whatever the boundaries, Demske believes a listing on the National Register could help the business district in a number of ways –most importantly, by raising its profile.

"Although Northside is well known throughout Cincinnati, businesses from outside of the area may not have heard of us and the fact that our neighborhood has a National Register listed business district may be the thing that sets us apart in an increasingly competitive marketplace," he says.

There are other benefits to national recognition, Warminski says.

"In the very unlikely event that Cincinnati's historic conservation ordinance is repealed, the local district would cease to exist," she says. "But the national district would remain in place unless it had massive demolition."

To begin the process, the NBA will be required to complete a National Register questionnaire, a four-part form required by the OHPO as the first step.

"The nomination itself should be relatively simple to write," Warminski says. "We'll be happy to guide them through the process as we've done with other neighborhoods."

Still, Demske says the NBA will take the process slowly to make sure that it does it right.

"Probably not until early 2010," he says. "If the NBD Grant program continues we will likely use funds from that to hire a consultant to help us complete the application and go from there."



Quim said...

1608 Hoffner was built by the Dhonau Brothers as a funeral Home. There is a ghost sign on the side facing Hamilton. One of the brothers served as President of the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.
Prior generations of the family built carriages in Cumminsville. Dhonau Street seems to have been creamed by highways. It would be shame to see the last vestige of this family wiped out.

Anonymous said...

Is this a good idea? I know this is done with good intentions, but sometimes I wonder if historical preservation actually acts as an impediment to development because it makes repairs cost-prohibitive. I see historical buildings in OTR that are too expensive to maintain according to historical preservation requirements, so they are simply not maintained. Regardless, I hope this Hoffner building is saved.

Bruce Demske said...

The listing doesn't impose any restrictions on repairs or remodeling. The (imposed by the City of Cincinnati) are restrictive but, frankly, they saved our business district in the 80's and 90's and are the reason that the listing is even a possibility these days.

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